Winter has arrived surprisingly quick this year with snow falling in most of the alpine ski resorts. Snow sports such as down-hill skiing, cross country skiing and snow boarding are associated with a specific set of injuries that require an early diagnosis and appropriate management.
The knee joint is the most commonly injured joint in the down hill skier due to the ankle and foot being fixed in the ski boot. This results in the knee being exposed to twisting forces. The ski provides a long lever and further increases the force going through the knee.
MCL (medial collateral ligament) and meniscal (knee cartilage) injuries are common and respond well to the RICE regime in the first 2-3 days and then rehabilitation is required to regain knee mobility, strength and control. Some cases may require arthroscopic surgery if not responding to physiotherapy.
ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries can occur in extreme situations. These injuries are characterized by immediate swelling, giving way and problems weight bearing. ACL ruptures require orthopaedic assessment ASAP. Rehabilitation is often over a 12 month period with avoidance of sport.
Upper limb injuries have become more prevalent due to the increase of snowboarders. Falling onto an outstretched hand which occurs whenever the boarder ‘catches an edge’ can result in wrist fractures, thumb and hand sprains.
Skiers thumb occurs when the skier falls while holding onto the pole which results in tearing the ligament on the inside of the thumb joint. Depending on the degree of damage your physio may supply you with a thumb splint to allow the ligament to heal. Rehabilitation will follow with mobility and strengthening exercises.
As the old saying goes ‘prevention is better than a cure’. The fitter and stronger you are before hitting the slopes the less chance you have of injuring yourself. Our pilates classes are the perfect setting to develop fitness for skiing and our physios are well trained in developing fitness programs for varying abilities.
Have fun on the slopes and remember to ski/board safe !