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Sports injuries

Problems specific to sporting activity



This area is designed to give tips and perhaps open questions which we can answer for you in email or telephone format. It is not comprehensive by any means, and if ever in doubt, you should seek expert opinion either from a qualified health practitioner or from a qualified instructor specific to the sport.

Skiiing

We are now firmly into the skiing/snowboarding season and if you are planning to go this year, best be as prepared as you can be to minimise the risk of injury. Common injuries in skiing involve the knees, with the most injuries involving ligaments which can leave the knee unstable in the long term. The most common of these is the anterior cruciate ligament which is found inside the knee and controls twisting movements taking place at the joint. Frequently, the recreational skier places importance on strong thigh muscles. This is certainly important but not exclusive to other areas of the body, as they can have influence over the forces going through knee. Here are some aspects to be given consideration pre-skiing:

General fitness: as skiing is usually an all day event, you require stamina. This is highlighted further by the fact that you are at altitude and exposed to decreased oxygen and will therefore tire easier. A boozy night the day before will usually leave you dehydrated to some degree, so you become even more vulnerable to fatigue. Its difficult to prepare sport-specifically for skiing before the actual trip but running, cycling, rowing, cross-training, especially using interval training, will help give you an edge. Drink plenty of water at night and in the morning to combat the customary hangover!!

Calf strength: the calf (soleus mainly) takes a serious hiding in snow sports because of the need to be leaning forwards with the lower leg all the time so he muscles are mostly on a stretch (boarding or skiing) and these muscles then have to control the position of the leg and body in very intense fashion. Good flexibility is achieved by conventional calf stretching (20sec hold approx) with the knee bent and then straight to target both major muscle groups and calf raises (heels off the ground as going on tip-toes) again with knees bent and straight will help develop strength-endurance. Doing 15-20 reps x 4 x 3/week would be a reasonable protocol to use, with moderate weight so that strength is gained.

Hip flexibility and strength: good strength of the buttock and outer hip muscles will improve stability and this joint and therefore better control means that you can control and correct better when the unexpected happens. Good strength here will also reduce the strain at the knee by improving proximal control. Groin strains and hamstring pulls are less common but not unheard of, so these can be avoided by good hip control.

Core strength: this is a common and popular area to target but just doing sit-ups or specific abdominal exercises is often not enough as these muscles are often trained in very non-functional positions. Deliberate activation of these muscles in weight bearing and unstable positions will help co-ordinate timing and activation of the core muscles in positions that resemble function, and this is what is important rather than being able to bang out 100 sit-ups mindlessly or even doing deep abdominal strengthening regimes. For example, to be doing squats on a wobble board whilst activating the abdominal muscles will mimic what you might encounter when skiing/boarding, as you will be a little more unstable that doing exercise on your back or just standing.

Thigh strength: Obviously this is an area that is often worked on in anticipation to a trip to the snow. Typically squats, lunges, step ups, leg press are some of the exercises that are used for strength. A good idea is to mix up heavy resistance work with high reps and lower weight. Remember that snow sports are an activity that lasts the whole day and will require endurance as well as strength.

There are many more aspects to be given consideration but the ones discussed above may be helpful to adopt any time between 4 to 6 weeks pre-skiing. The longer the preparation time, the better the results are likely to be.

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