Picking up speed, and how to prevent knee injuries
Posted by Liz Sims, Redpoint Physical Therapy, Plymouth, MA.
There I was... At the top of the mountain, beautiful white snow covering as far as the eye could see. So what if I had only had one lesson - I was 12 years old, at the prime of my youth - and mom said I could!
I started off in my 'pizza pie' position, just like I had learned in class. Turn left, turn right... Yeah, I was totally getting it! I started to question my decision to "just go for it" on the intermediate level trail (seeing as how I had never skied before) as I began to pick up speed. Somewhere between seeing a person literally dive out of my way (picture young kid in florescent 90's-esque gear, poles flailing, coming straight for you!) and seeing the horrified look on my mother's face, I realized I had ditched the pizza pie stance and was bombing down the mountain with my skis parallel! I felt a mixture of mild terror mixed with undeniable glee! Those who dove out of my way probably heard me chortling in between my screams.
That's pretty much how I feel this week!
As we pick up speed in the office, I feel an odd combination of pure enjoyment and satisfaction mixed with a healthy dose of fear that I can only hope is natural for a new business owner.
And in the spirit of winter, here's another tip to keep you out of my office:
Many studies report that the most common skiing injury is to the knee. Per the American College of Sports Medicine, the medial collateral ligament (MCL) is most commonly injured due to slow twisting falls or prolonged “pizza pie” holding. Injuries are also known to occur when your muscles are fatigued towards the end of a long run, or after a long day on the slopes.
While many MCL injuries do not require surgery, they often require bracing and physical therapy, and can shorten an already too brief New England ski season!
Here are some exercises I like to do before hitting the slopes:
Foam roll those IT bands!
If you’ve been in my office, you know I have a (possibly unhealthy) obsession with foam rolling, but it really makes a difference with the IT band. Improved muscle balance will decrease torque on the knee and help minimize your risk for injury.
Ball wall Squats with hold:
This exercise will add strength and endurance to the major muscles in your legs, giving you a little extra control on that last run. If you’re only an occasional skier, you definitely notice the difference with this exercise!
Place an exercise ball between your back and a wall.
Move your feet out in front of you so that your knees are at a 90 degree angle when you squat
Keeping your core tight, slowly squat straight down (don’t let your hips translate forward!), holding on the 10th repetition for 30 seconds
Variation on ball squat. Try in a lunge position:
Monster walks (not pictured)
Strengthening your outer hip muscles will help you regain control when you get off balance or misplace a ski.
Place a resistance band around your ankles
With knees and hips slightly bent, step forward and out to the side (think, upside down ‘L’)
Try this down a hallway, and remember to maintain control and go slowly!
Dynamic balance: Lower extremity cone reach (not pictured)
There are a lot of options for balance, and many varying degrees of difficulty. I like a lower cone reach because it engages the rotational hip muscles as well as lateral hip and core muscles.
Set up 3 cones in a triangle, and stand between 2 of them
Standing on 1 leg, reach the other leg to tap each cone before stepping down again
Easy version: stand on floor. Tougher version: stand on pillow, foam, or dynadisc.
Feeling daring? Here are some more advanced exercises:
From Mens Fitness:
Backwards Treadmill Walk
Suggested: 3 sets of 1 minute; build up to 3 sets of 3 minutes
Start walking very slowly on the treadmill at 2-3 miles per hour. Increase the incline as high as it goes. Very carefully, turn around so you’re facing backwards—your toes should be pointing toward the end of the belt, like you’re walking backwards uphill. As you walk, drop to a squat so that your knees are at nearly 90 degrees—similar to the tuck position of skiing. This exercise builds strength endurance in the quads and glutes. "It doesn't look that hard," Moore says, "but when you hop on and do it, it's brutal — thirty seconds in and your legs are on fire."
And, try this! From The Middle Aged Ski Bum: