Ski fitness and conditioning
Do not try to ski yourself into shape. Be in shape before you get to the top of the mountain. Poor fitness and conditioning are major contributing factors of ski injuries. Prepare months before your planned ski trip with a good strengthening and conditioning program. One should utilize aerobic and stretching exercise which targets the hip and thigh muscles such as cycling, StairMaster, step aerobics and swimming. Weight training, using light weights and high repetition, will compliment your aerobic training.
Learning proper technique from a trained professional is paramount. Studies show that the high level skiers have fewer injuries. A ski instructor will help you advance through the novice levels more quickly. Even advanced skiers can benefit from professional instructors by refining their skills which will help to avoid injury. Do not rely on friends or family members to teach you how to ski. Use a certified ski instructor.
Properly adjusted ski bindings, based on your weight, height, and level of expertise, can significantly reduce your chances of ski injury. Modern ski bindings have made a substantial impact on reducing ski knee injuries. If you own your own skis, have your bindings checked by a certified ski shop. Whether you rent or own your skis, make sure the release mechanism of the ski binding is tested while in your presence.
With regard to eye wear, ski goggles provide your eyes with the best protection. They improve visualization by reducing the glare and wind. They provide mechanical protection against projectile debris and snow. More importantly, goggles protect against harmful ultraviolet light. Use a lens that has UV light protection rating.
Proper boot fit
Like ski bindings, the modern ski boot design has dramatically decreased lower extremity injuries. When selecting a boot, comfort and proper fit are important. When testing the boot in the store, keep the boot tightly buckled while walking about simulating skiing motions for as long as possible. If it does not fit in the shop, it will not fit on the slopes. A bad boot fit usually results in the skier unbuckling the boot to some degree in order to ski without pain. This response can result in a dramatic reduction in your ability to control your skis, which increases the possibility for accidents.
Recent scientific evidence suggests that fatigue is a major factor contributing to ski injuries. Skiing requires finely coordinated sustained muscle contractions. Most would admit that skiing tired is potentially dangerous. Yet, denial allows some to believe that they are exempt. Exercising common sense in understanding your own physical limits will help you to avoid injury when fatigue develops.
Beware of the chair lift
One of the most dangerous areas on the ski mountain is not the Double Black Diamond Slopes, it is the chair lift. Failure to concentrate during the critical moment of get off from the chair lift has resulted in many ski injuries, mainly to the knee. Often these injuries occur when someone steps on the back of your ski. By trapping your ski, this results in a backward twisting fall which is a common mechanism for knee injuries. If you ride on quad chairs, it is best to sit on the outer seats. By occupying the center seat, you must avoid two people rather than one when disembarking. Conventional snow skiers should avoid riding the chair lifts with snowboarders. Snowboarders sit on chair lifts with their snowboards angled at 45°. They must plant and pivot off the chair lift upon disembarkation. Because of the position and angle of the board, the potential for trapping the back of your ski increases which can result in a backward twisting fall.
The art of falling
Anyone who has ever donned a set of snow skis has experienced a fall. Research has been compiled from analysis of thousands of ski injuries and scores of video tapes of actual knee injuries. These studies have identified certain maneuvers which are potentially dangerous and can lead to knee ligament injuries.
They often occur when the skier is:
A profile has been recognized when these situations occur:
Avoid using ski pole straps
Slipping your hand through the ski pole straps increases the likelihood of thumb and upper extremity injuries. The ski pole strap locks the wrist and hand to the pole. The pole acts as a lever against the thumb which can result in injury. The purpose of the strap is to hang the poles up on a hook. If you cannot break the habit of using the straps when holding ski poles, cut them off, it will reduce your chance of injury.
The second opinion
Ski safety is a subject affected by many variables. Despite the best efforts, control of these variables cannot always be achieved. Fortunately, the ski injury rate has decreased over the years. Lower extremity injuries, primarily to the knee, account for 30% of all ski injuries. It should be noted that if a knee injury occurs, such as a ligament sprain or a tear, there is no minimum time period in which these injuries need to be repaired. Research has shown that most acute knee injuries respond better when acute swelling is allowed to subside. In these cases, a second opinion should be considered rather than the lure of immediate surgery.