Sports Medicine Specialist Dr. Stuart Styles with Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group Reviews Common Ski Injuries and Offers Tips for Pre-season Training

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According to Dr. Stuart Syles, by undertaking a pre-season ski conditioning program you can avoid the pitfalls of injury and take your skiing to new heights.

Dr. Stuart Styles, Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group

Your physical condition is the most important part of preventing ski injuries and getting the most enjoyment out of skiing.

Colorful leaves and nippy temperatures can only mean one thing: Ski season isn’t far off. Recreational skiers may already be eyeing the latest equipment or most colorful apparel to wear as they glide down the powder, but it’s even more important to train their bodies for the upcoming ski season to avoid potentially devastating injuries, according to Dr. Stuart Styles, of Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group.

While significant equipment improvements have reduced the overall rate of skiing injuries by 50 percent since the 1970s, according to the National Ski Areas Association, about 144,000 skiing-related injuries still land amateur skiers in hospitals, doctors’ offices and emergency rooms each year. Many of these can be prevented before the ski season even begins by physically preparing for the array of twists, turns and bends required to safely hit the slopes, explains Dr. Styles.

“Skiers should think about conditioning for this sport long before ski season arrives,” says Dr. Styles, a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon. “Few sports are as physically demanding as downhill skiing, yet many skiers hit the slopes after little or no training in the pre-season. Fall is the best time to make sure your body is slope-worthy.”

Most Prevalent Ski Injuries
What injuries are most likely on the mountain? Falls account for 75 to 85 percent of them, regardless of the type, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. The most common injuries include those of the:

  • Knee: One-third of all ski injuries occur to the knee joint, the most common being a sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) on the inside region of the knee. This injury often occurs with slow, twisting falls, or if the skiers catch an “edge” of the powder when the lower leg is suddenly twisted away from the upper leg. Another common knee injury is to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), which can be triggered by a backward fall as the lower leg moves forward.
  • Shoulder and/or arm: Another one-third of ski injuries occur to skiers’ shoulders and/or arms. Because skiers frequently put their arms out to break a fall, dislocations, sprains and fractures of these areas are prevalent.
  • Head: Up to 20 percent of all ski injuries are to the head and mostly occur when skiers hit inanimate objects such as a tree or the ground. Often, the injured are not wearing helmets, according to a 2012 study by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

5 Components of Effective Ski Conditioning
Don’t want to become an injury statistic? Here are 5 key parts to a beneficial pre-season ski training program:

  • Flexibility: Perform daily stretching of the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, calves, gluteals and trunk muscles. Hold stretches for 20-30 seconds with 2 to 3 sets for each muscle group.
  • Strength: Use dumbbells, resistance bands or sports-cords to perform strengthening exercises in both the lower and upper body. Lower-body ski-specific exercises include squats, front and side lunges, hamstring curls and leg presses.
  • Balance/Coordination: Useful exercises include balance board squats, physio-ball kneeling, ski simulation machines and agility ladders.
  • Endurance: Building an aerobic base can be achieved through running, hiking, rowing, biking, inline skating, swimming or stair-climbing 3 to 5 times per week for between 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Speed: Quick lateral moves integral to skiing can be practiced by placing a pillow on the floor and hopping sideways from foot to foot while maintaining a balanced upper body. Plyometrics – jumping and bounding exercises incorporating powerful takeoffs and controlled landings – include box jumps and hurdle bounds.

Regardless of which combination of exercises and strength training you choose to get ready for the ski season, try to begin your regimen at least six weeks before hitting the slopes, Dr. Styles recommends.

“By undertaking a pre-season ski conditioning program, you can avoid the pitfalls of injury and take your skiing to new heights,” Dr. Styles says. “Your physical condition is the most important part of preventing ski injuries and getting the most enjoyment out of skiing.”    

Stuart T. Styles, M.D., F.A.A.O.S. is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon with Somers Orthpaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine.

Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group, PLLC, was founded in 1988 and is one of the most comprehensive and specialized practices in the region.

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