Deck the halls with boughs of…skis. We’ve waited and waited and it’s finally here—ski season! There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as the feeling of a crisp wind brushing your face as you plummet down a freshly groomed mountain. There’s also little as annoying as a ski injury that prevents you from enjoying the rest of the season.
While some ski-related injuries are out of your control, many are easy to prevent even before you hit the slopes. All you have to do is stretch (and exercise regularly).
According to Dr. Bill Sterret, former head team doctor for the U.S. Women’s Alpine Ski Team, “the single most important thing skiers and riders can do the day of skiing is stretch before hitting the slopes.”
Follow these 6 helpful tips to protect yourself from injury during this ski (and snowboard) season:
1. Warmed muscles are less likely to be injured. Stretching helps warm your muscles, which are more prone to injuries (i.e. tears and fractures) when they’re cold. The warmer they are, the further your muscles will stretch, allowing you to move better while you’re racing down the mountain.
2. Stretched leg muscles help prevent knee injuries. The knee tops the list of most commonly injured body parts while skiing. One way to avoid hurting yours is by stretching regularly. As you well know, skiing involves a lot of bending and pivoting, two motions which strain the knee joint. Those with tight quads and hamstrings put even further stress on this joint, increasing its risk of becoming injured. The key to staying safe: strengthen your leg muscles and stretch your legs regularly to prevent stiffness and improve function.
3. Stretch from head to toe for all-body protection. Increase flexibility from your top-down by stretching everything from your neck to your ankles. Any tight muscle can be responsible for throwing you off balance, increasing your risk of getting hurt. Stretching can help loosen all of your joints and keep them lubricated and moving easily.
4. Exercise regularly. Being strong everywhere is one of the best forms of protection. Having a strong core, quad, hamstring, ankles, feet, and glutes, for instance, can help prevent tears in your Achilles, as well as protect your knees, ankles, and tibia (a.k.a. shin bone). The fitter you are, the more flexible you’ll be, plus, you’ll be able to ski for longer and recover faster if you do happen to become injured. So, hit the gym and aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (even walking counts) every day.
5. Check Your Equipment. Faulty gear can cause a multitude of problems. Loose bindings, dull edges, and a poorly fitting helmet can all lead to disaster. Make sure to have them all checked before you head out.
6. Book a Lesson. Even seasoned skiers and snowboarders can benefit from a little time spent with a pro. Sign up for a lesson, even just once every season will help, to be sure your technique is as good as it could be. An instructor can teach you how to fall safely, which will ultimately help protect your arms, shoulders, and other body parts. Another tip: If you’re going down, drop your pole. Skier’s thumb (a common injury resulting in a ligament tear) can be avoided if you don’t fall on an outstretched arm while still gripping a pole.