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From Slopes To Surgery, HSS Doctor Shares Skiing Tips, Experiences

Dr. Sabrina Strickland is board-certified in Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Sabrina Strickland is board-certified in Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery. Photo Credit: Hospital for Special Surgery

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Dr. Sabrina Strickland, an orthopedic surgeon at HSS's Outpatient Center in Stamford, shares her knowledge and experiences as a skier, as well as tips for how to avoid ski injuries

Miraculously, in my 35 years of skiing I have never suffered a serious injury, but I certainly have come close. I still remember my first time on skis. My parents dropped me off with my middle school friends at a ski area near where I grew up in Massachusetts and I set off up the hill on the tow rope only to come crashing down, skis off, multiple times. By the end of that day I was hooked and starting taking ski lessons after school. 

In high school I went on school ski trips and joined the ski team as a senior. I wasn’t good enough to be competitive but I loved it. Attending college at Cornell did not provide much opportunity for skiing but I was able to ski at Stratton during the holiday breaks and taught kids how to ski as a ski instructor.

I went to college planning to become an orthopedic surgeon and I knew that there would be little opportunity to take time off or ski for that matter. Fortunately, my college best friend’s family had a house in Crested Butte, Col. How lucky was I to have a free place to spend a year off before medical school? That year, we hiked up to reach the farthest, most extreme spots and skied all day long.

A 10-year hiatus followed during med school and residency during which I didn’t ski more than a day or two.  When I returned to skiing, I was happy to discover that new technology made it easier to ski, and I quickly returned to the trees and steeps.

Whether learning for the first time or a seasoned pro, here are several suggestions to minimize injuries when skiing:

  • Wear a helmet. No matter how many years you skied without one, it can save your life
  • Have your bindings and boots checked at least once a year. My ski popped off on a steep trail last year in Snowbird, sending me downhill headfirst. It turned out the binding had malfunctioned
  • Get in shape before ski season; you will have more fun and ski safer
  • Include some balance exercises as part of your work out, which will help you ski better
  • Have your skis tuned constantly. There is no such thing as too sharp