Preparing for winter sports
The days are shorter, darker, wetter, colder, but it’s not all bad news... winter also brings with it the thrill of weeks of skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, telemark and snowball fights! Of course, for most of us it is often about speed rather than style, which of course brings the risk of injury for some. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says sports therapist and BCTC member Anne-Marie Samuel of Body In Motion in Bournemouth.
“Factors which increase risk of injury are increased uncontrolled speeds, poor fitness and ill-fitting equipment,” she says. “But many ski injuries can be prevented by a solid strength and conditioning programme eight weeks before a trip.” The most common ski-related injury is the knee - some 36 per cent of all injuries are related to the knee, followed by head injuries and then fractures.
The medial collateral ligament of the knee is the most common injury due to the push of the inside edge of the blade. The knee experiences rotational forces whilst the ankle and foot remain stable in the boot. This is closely followed by the anterior cruciate ligament, the medial cartilage and shoulder dislocations. “As with everything, prevention is better than the cure and increasing your leg strength, balance and flexibility prior to your holiday will prevent 90 per cent of injuries,” says Anne-Marie.
This is far better than getting injured on your first day of holiday, spending six weeks in a cast or splint and doing six months of rehab, not allowed to run or play other sport.”
For recreational skiers, Anne-Marie advises doing squats, lunges, side-to-side jumps, leg press and core strengthening which will also help reduce injuries. For snowboarders, wrist injuries are the most common. Every year 95,000 wrist fractures occur among snowboarders alone! Wearing a wrist guard has been shown conclusively to reduce the incidence of wrist fractures.
“In fact, for some people doing at least some exercise before they go for their once a year ski trip will help lessen fatigue and muscle soreness!” she says. Core muscle strength and endurance is critical for all winter sports athletes to help guard against injuries. Flexibility and balance work is also an integral part of preparation. “So, live the dream, enjoy the ride, but remember a few weeks preparing your body in advance could save many months in painful rehab sessions afterwards!”