As the traffic up I-70 every weekend clearly indicates, we have fully embarked on ski season. And for a number of the approximately 11.24 million Americans who are rushing off to the slopes, winter Sunday mornings can quickly turn into propping a leg up on a pillow while sipping champagne mimosas, instead of knocking out some sweet runs while ripping through champagne powder. It’s hard to know how many recreational skiers suffer an injury during their season, since the Carolina Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center estimates that 40% of them aren’t ever reported – but based on how many of you I see on my table every December through March, I’m approximating that your risk of experiencing some degree of sprain, tear, or fracture at some point is better than a snowball’s chance in Hell’s Half Acre, Berthoud Pass. But this is not a reason to hang up your boards/board, bro! A little knowledge and preparation will go a long way in keeping you on the hill, and off your couch this winter. So over the next few weeks, I plan to dive deep into skiing injuries and rehabilitation, starting with how to get ready for your season.
The good news is that skiing continues to become safer, with injuries dropping over 50% over the past 30 years, due mostly to improvements in equipment, slope design and grooming, and instruction. The bad news is that the most common cause of injury is low skier ability – which means that even if you are pretty apt at the sport yourself, you need to watch out for other skiers exceeding their limitations, and their mistakes or fatigue causing a traumatic incident for you. For example, when I worked on the hill in Summit County, I had a buddy named Wayne, that we all preferred to keep below us.
Here are some things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most use out of your resort pass this winter:
- Maintain good fitness through the year – Skiing is a strenuous activity, requiring flexibility, endurance, and balance. Modern-day skiing is considered less of a pure strength-based activity, and more of a dynamic balance sport, demanding a complex series of related actions between your upper and lower body muscle groups. Keep yourself in good general shape throughout the year by incorporating a variety of sports or activities into your weekly schedule, which will fine-tune your overall fine and gross motor skills.
- Start a focused, preparatory exercise regime 8 weeks before ski season – Most injuries tend to occur early in the season, when skiers are out of practice or not yet in optimal condition. Movements that may be relatively innocent to a skier who has developed the required musculature, may put a new or unprepared skier at greater risk of injury, especially when speed is involved. Your pre-season fitness focus should be on creating muscular strength and endurance, and getting the body functioning properly as a whole. Work on muscle conditioning in quads, glutes, and your core, with lunges, squats, and abdominal exercises. Incorporate aerobic training to reduce fatigue and minimize your risk of crashing – it’s no coincidence that most accidents are reported between 12-4 pm, when skiers are getting tired! If I had a nickel for every person who told me that they got injured on the last run of the day, I’d buy you all drinks at Mahogany Ridge.
- Be prepared! – Whether or not you were (or are) a Boy Scout, I encourage you to apply this motto to your skiing. Your best injury-preventative measure is a little common sense. Learn and follow all safety protocols on the slopes. Stick to the runs that are appropriate for your fitness and skill level. Check all your equipment before heading up the hill, to ensure proper fit, safety, and function.
And of course, schedule some Massage Therapy – pre-ski Massage is as important as aprés! Sports Massage is a highly effective injury-preventative measure, in that it can identify and assist in correcting muscle imbalances by increasing flexibility and strength, and release latent trigger points. Regular focused bodywork will improve circulation, relax and stretch muscles, and flush metabolic waste, which can combat inflammation and wear and tear that occurs over time. Deep Tissue Massage can cultivate improved flexibility in your joints and fascia, which will serve you well in your twists and landings. And finally, Massage Therapy can also raise your awareness of body positioning by stimulating nervous system function and proprioception, which can be helpful in preventing more traumatic damage after a fall.
In part two of this series, we will start moving through some of the most common ski injuries and issues associated with the sport, and how Massage Therapy can address each of them. In the meantime, see you on the slopes, and don’t forget your helmet. And maybe some toewarmers.
Power to the Peaceful Body,
Boulder Sports Massage
Your Boulder resource for sports massage and deep tissue massage with empathy