Ski Season is Coming: Prepare Now for an Injury Free Experience on the Slopes

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Dr. Kevin Plancher with Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine with tips on pre-season core development, strength, flexibility and endurance training.

Dr. Kevin Plancher

Smart preparation and conditioning that starts early can have snow-sports fans on their way to a healthier and safer ski and boarding season.

Ski season is coming. Downhill skiing continues to be a hugely popular winter pastimes, attracting nearly 20 million participants to the slopes each year. Snowboarding is gaining popularity too, with more than 8 million Americans participating in the sport each year. Along with the beautiful vistas and exhilaration of a day on the slopes, the reality is that skiers and snowboarders face numerous health risks associated with these activities. According to Kevin Plancher, MD, leading NY-area orthopaedist and official surgeon of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Teams, “The good news is that many ski and snowboarding related injuries can be prevented with smart pre-season conditioning to add strength and flexibility to the muscles, tendons and ligaments used while skiing, many of which are rarely, if ever, used during normal everyday activities.”

Dr. Plancher adds that skiing and snowboarding are fun, family activities. However, these sports sometimes look easier than they are and some people even believe that the soft, powdery snow will cushion their fall and help them avoid injury. Dr. Plancher clarifies that this is not so. And while helmet use has resulted in fewer head injuries in recent years, and better equipment has reduced the instances of severe leg and ankle fractures, the overall injury rate among skiers and snowboarders remains a reality.

“Today we are seeing younger participants skiing harder and “pushing the envelope” by adding riskier freestyle moves into both sports. The most common ski and snowboard injuries now involve muscles, ligaments and tendons in the legs, knees, and sometimes to the upper body,” he adds.

Dr. Plancher, who serves as Chairman the Orthopedic Foundation for Active Lifestyles (http://www.ofals.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to advancements in research and education for orthopedics and sports medicine, promotes early training for the winter season for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and skill levels. Following are his recommendations for a program that focuses on four key areas of conditioning:

1. Core Development: A strong body core, the spine and abdomen, is key to staying healthy on the slopes. It can help improve balance, fluidity, coordination and overall power and strength. “This is sometimes an ignored aspect of pre-season training,” Dr. Plancher says, “However, it can be one of the most important ones, because few sports require such a practiced sense of balance as do skiing and boarding,” he adds. Dr. Plancher recommends professional guidance for core strengthening. He suggests yoga and pilates to help develop those core muscles.

2. Flexibility: Dr. Plancher advises that increasing the flexibility of connective tissue is one of the most important thing skiers and snowboarders can do to reduce the risk of injury. The reason is that nearly every major joint in the body, including ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, wrists and elbow, are relied on for skiing and snowboarding, as well as during a fall. According to Dr. Plancher, “more flexibility can help skiers and boarders stay on their feet, but equally as importantly, it can also help them land better during a fall, reducing the chance of injury.” Dr. Plancher suggests that a 6-8 week daily pre-season plan of a 20-minute full body stretching routine, after an aerobic activity that has warmed up the muscles.

3. Strengthening: Strength and flexibility go hand-in-hand in preventing ski injury. Here, the task is to strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments that may not have even been used since last winter’s final run on the slopes! Dr. Plancher suggests doing squats and rotations on a bosu ball, a device with a large flat surface on top and a soft ball-shaped underside, for a stretching, strengthening workout. Dr. Plancher cautions everyone to avoid deep knee squats or leg extension exercises with weights. Click here for some terrific video instruction from Dr. Plancher for ski strengthening. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPiWdIpwnFM

4. Endurance: Without a doubt, overall physical fitness is important because a tired and winded skier or snowboarder may be more prone to injury than a fit one. A pre-season aerobic exercise regimen for thirty to sixty minutes a day can increase cardiovascular endurance, lung capacity and overall fitness; choose biking, running, swimming or even walking, for aerobic conditioning.

“There are no promises that even with pre-season conditioning that all skiing and snowboarding injuries can be prevented,” Dr. Plancher admits. “But, smart preparation and conditioning that starts early can have snow-sports fans on their way to a healthier and safer ski and boarding season this year.”

Kevin D. Plancher, MD, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and the founder of Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is a general orthopaedics and sports medicine practice with offices in New York City and Greenwich, CT. http://www.plancherortho.com

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