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Effective Physical Therapy for Ski Injury and Prevention

Skiing is one of the favorite winter recreational activities for those of us that are blessed enough to live in the great northwest. However, skiing while being a very fun sport for most recreational athletes, is a sport that requires significant core and lower extremity strength along with having decent body awareness and balance while flying down the mountain. When an individual is skiing the body is often subjected to moving at significant velocities as we progress down the mountain and during this time it is also subjected to withstanding extremely high force loads which are encountered when turning, maneuvering through moguls or trees, landing from jumps, or simply coming to a quick controlled stop. If your body is not adequately conditioned to withstand all of these different tasks, it often becomes significantly more likely that you will suffer from an injury.

Common Injuries

While there can be a myriad of injuries one can encounter when skiing, the most common injuries are knee sprain/strains and MCL/ACL tears which account for over 30% of all skiing injuries.

MCL Sprains

This form of injuries is the most common knee injury experienced when skiing and while it can be severely debilitating it rarely requires surgery. These injuries are often caused when the tips of the skis are pointed toward one another as in the usual snow plow position (often used for slowing down or stopping) and a sudden fall occurs. MCL injuries are more prevalent in beginner and intermediate skiers often due the fact that they have not yet fully mastered the snow plow technique and attempted a run that was beyond their experience level. Two great preventative measures to take to avoid a MCL injury are:

1) Focus on keeping weight balanced evenly between feet when snowplowing therefore limiting the chances of catching an edge on one ski and suffering a fall.

2) Don’t try and move from beginner runs (green circles), to advanced runs (single or double black diamonds) to quickly. Progressing to quickly will often cause the skier to become overwhelmed and subsequent falls will likely occur.

ACL Tears

These injuries are the 2nd most common knee injury in skiing and since the ACL is crucial to knee stabilization it often results in receiving surgical reconstruction. While skiing there are two common causes of ACL tears.

1) Landing improperly from a jump. When skiers land improperly from a jump quite often the weight of their body is behind the skis, causing the ski boots to forcefully push against the calf muscles and tibia and resulting in a torn ACL.

2) The second leading cause of ACL tears is a phenomenon known as “phantom foot”. This occurs when a skier is trying to prevent an inevitable fall by quickly standing up on one ski and forcing their weight to the outside edge, while simultaneously twisting away in the opposite direction with the arms and trunk. It is crucial to remember that falls are a natural occurrence when skiing and it is always best to accept the fall and move with your momentum instead of against it.

Steps to Prevent Injuries

1) Master the keys to an effective skiing technique: hands and weight forward, legs parallel, and hips, knees, and ankles flexing equally.

2) Stay on marked groomed trails. Skiing off trail or out of bounds significantly increase your risk of hitting unmarked obstacles resulting in injury.

Before You Hit the Slopes

1) Prepare your body: As stated earlier skiing is a demanding sport. By actively training yourself before your first run, you can significantly decrease your risk of injury.

2) Ensure you have the the right sized equipment and a proper a boot fitting: Most importantly, make sure that your boots are properly fit to your foot and ankle. If you don’t know what I’m talking about go see the pros at Ph.D Skis. These guys are MasterFit Certified and what that means is they will form a cast or mold of your foot and ankle in its best position to further decrease your risk of injury. This mold is then placed in your boot making your foot feel like it is receiving the spa treatment while you are tearing it up down the mountain. Visit this link to their website to see all that they can offer you https://www.phdskis.com/services/. Secondly, make sure you are on skis that are fit to meet the needs of your body and skill. Skiing on equipment that isn’t properly fitted to your size and skill only makes learning more difficult and increases your risk of injury.

3) Master your technique before attempting advanced runs. If you are just learning to ski it is highly advised you receive a couple lessons. This will ensure you have a solid foundation on which to progress your skills.

4) Rest when needed. While skiing whether you’re an advanced skier or simply a beginner your legs will become tired. As your legs tire they also become weaker and less resistant to the high forces you are forcing them to resist and increasing your risk of sustaining an injury

Exercises for Core Strengthening


Side Plank

side palnk

Front Step Downs

front step downs




Wall Squats

wall squat

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