Skiing can be one of the most enjoyable winter activities and is a great sport the entire family can enjoy. But nothing can ruin a great day outdoors (or even the next 6-12 months) like a serious knee injury, especially the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.
According to orthopaedic knee surgeon Demetris Delos, MD at Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery Specialists (ONS), skiers, in particular, are at risk to strain the ACL to the point of tearing. “The greatest risk to the ACL happens when skiers try to recover from a fall with their body weight in back of the skis, or if they don’t land a jump correctly,” he said. Improperly set ski bindings that don’t release at a critical moment can also strain or tear the ACL, he said. ACL tears usually require surgery and a lengthy recuperation to repair.
The best way to minimize the risk to the ACL is to improve strength and overall conditioning, particularly in the core and lower body. “There is nothing glamorous or exciting about a targeted conditioning program, but it can mean the difference between a successful and enjoyable ski season and one that is marked by prolonged aches, pains or even more serious injuries,” Dr. Delos said.
On ski days, Dr. Delos advised skiers to warm up with light stretching and a few easy runs to allow the body to acclimate to the activity and conditions. At the end of the day, it’s best to cool down with three to five sets of 15-20 second stretches.
Additionally, Dr. Delos noted that common sense can help avoid ACL and other injuries. “The risk for injury increases in the afternoons or early evening when skiers become fatigued or if they attempt terrain that is too challenging to their ability,” he said. Risks also increase when visibility is decreased or when conditions are too icy or too soft. “Consider easier runs when any of these factors are present,” he said.
If you experience a painful injury to the knee that results in swelling, trouble standing, walking or supporting weight on the affected knee or if the knee looks odd when compared to the other knee, schedule an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in knees. ONS has 26 specialty-trained physicians and offices in Greenwich and Stamford, CT and Harrison, NY. Learn more at onsmd.com.