Baseball might be America’s favorite pastime, but skiing and snowboarding are America’s gnarliest, attracting an estimated 30 million participants each year. A typical ski season in the United States lasts from late November through early April, which means five perfect months to hit the slopes and possibly rack up a few spills.
We talked to Kevin Plancher, MD, the official surgeon of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams, about some tips for preventing winter sport-related injuries.
“The most common ski and snowboard injuries now involve muscles, ligaments and tendons in the legs, knees, and sometimes to the upper body,” says Plancher. “The good news is that many ski and snowboarding related injuries can be prevented with smart pre-season conditioning to add strength and flexibility to the muscles, tendons and ligaments used while skiing.”
“This is sometimes an ignored aspect of pre-season training,” explains Dr. Plancher. “However, it can be one of the most important ones, because few sports require such a practiced sense of balance as do skiing and boarding,” he says, adding that yoga and pilates are a great way to develop these abdominal muscles.
Dr. Plancher advises that increasing the flexibility of connective tissue is one of the most important thing skiers and snowboarders can do to reduce the risk of injury. “More flexibility can help skiers and boarders stay on their feet, but equally as important, it can also help them land better during a fall, reducing the chance of injury.”
Strength and flexibility go hand-in-hand in preventing ski injury. Dr. Plancher suggests doing squats and rotations on a bosu ball, a device with a large flat surface on top and a soft ball-shaped underside, for a stretching, strengthening workout.
Without a doubt, overall physical fitness is important because a tired and winded skier or snowboarder may be more prone to injury than a fit one. A pre-season aerobic exercise regimen for thirty to sixty minutes a day can increase cardiovascular endurance, lung capacity and overall fitness. Biking, running, swimming, or even walking, are great options for aerobic conditioning.