Blog number 1: Skis, bindings and ski boots, and lower extremity injuries, and their prevention.
Getting ready to hit the slopes next year? Then we are here to help you out. In this, three issue blogs, we will discuss the essential equipment needed for your trip alongside general guidance when buying it. We will also discuss the most common skiing injuries and suggest a number of approaches on how to reduce the risk of experiencing one. In this issue we will focus on skis, bindings and boots as well as common lower extremity injuries.
If you are a regular skier, we strongly recommend to invest in the equipment, but if this skiing holiday is only to tick it off of your bucket list, then you always have an option to rent the skis in the resort, however, you might not end up with the best pair for you. So, first things first, you can not ski without the skis. Buying it is not a simple task. There are numerous sizes, widths, lengths and shapes of skis. It all depends on the level of your skiing. When going to the ski shop, one of the most important things to know is that shop assistants are your best friend and most of the time they are highly knowledgeable professionals in helping you to find the best option for you. However, you must do a little homework and be prepared to answer questions such as: What is your skiing level? How frequently do you ski, and which terrain is your favourite to ski on?
After choosing your skis, you will have to get the bindings. Ski bindings is a special equipment which connects the ski boot to the ski enabling the skier to manoeuvre the ski. It is also a very important piece of equipment for injury prevention as during excessive forces it disconnects from the ski releasing the ankle. Once again there are various designs created by many manufacturers, hence, seek for advice from the ski shop assistant. However, generally, ensure that bindings fit your skiing style, your skiing boots and pay attention on the release, as most of the knee injuries could be prevented if the binding would release early during a fall.
When buying the ski boots ensure that they not only look good and fit well but are also supportive and feel comfortable. Know your feet and what you are used to. Remember that most of the time you will be wearing thick socks, so leave some extra space. Ideally, we recommend that you would have your boots measured and fitted by a professional to avoid disappointment. After purchasing a new pair, try to use it as much as you can before heading to hit the slopes.
Common lower extremity ski injuries:
Most common skiing injuries in the lower limbs are ACL and MCL sprains and meniscus tears. ACL and MCL are ligaments which attach your shin bone to your thigh bone and provide stability in the joint. Meniscus mainly functions as a cushion for shock absorption and adds to the stability of the knee joint.
- Symptoms: You would usually feel or hear a pop in the knee. You will be in an excruciating pain immediately after injury. The knee will swell up significantly within couple of hours, however, depending on your fitness level, you might feel like you can function quite well minutes after the injury, but it will worsen rapidly. If you completely torn your ACL, some movements will make your knee unstable and make it collapse.
- Cause: Most common cause is too much twisting going through the knee joint due to loss of control and falling back on the skis with hips below the knees. Another common mechanism for this injury is sliding down on your side having your knees straight and trying to stand up.
- Prevention: Work on your technique. Ensure that you take on the terrain you feel comfortable on. Keep your knees bent at all times, when fallen and sliding down ensure that your knees are bent and that you come to a full stop before attempting to stand up. Moreover, have a more aggressive posture, meaning lean more forward to reduce the risk of falling backwards. Also, some strengthening and proprioceptive exercises can help you to have a better control of the body, hence, reducing the injury chance.
MCL sprains are also common in skiing. The mechanism of injury is very similar to the one of the ACL, however, it occurs more when the knee is being forcefully bent inwards.
- Symptoms: Pain at the inside of the knee. Usually much less swelling, if any, comparing to the ACL. Knee might feel unstable and uncomfortable when bending it in.
- Causes: Excessive forces placed on the bent knee pushing it in. Usually due to very similar reasons to those of ACL sprain.
- Prevention: Same as ACL.
Once again the mechanism of injury is very similar to the one of ACL and MCL. If you are really unlucky you might experience something called an ‘Unlucky Triad’ where all three structures are torn during one event.
- Symptoms: Usually minimal swelling, however, the knee will feel painful during a specific movement constantly. This will vastly depend on the area of meniscus injured. You might also feel consistent clicking or catching of the knee.
- Causes: Excessive twisting forces placed on the knee. Usually due to similar reasons to those of ACL sprain.
- Prevention: Same and ACL + MCL.