Even black-diamond skiers and snowboarders enjoying a weekend on the slopes can have their season spoiled by an injury that happens on the last run of the day. But the end-of-the-day tweaks and spills are more common than you'd think, says physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Ed Laskowski, M.D., of Mayo Clinic. Muscle fatigue at the end of the day can lead to sloppy technique and injuries such as a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee, which can require surgery and intensive rehabilitation. Dr. Laskowski, a former elite skier who turned his career to medicine, says that recreational skiers can take steps to optimize their protection from injury.
Physical preparation before a big ski weekend can go a long way, according to Dr. Laskowski, who specializes in fitness, wellness, strength-and-stability training, and sports injury prevention strategies. To gear up for a ski holiday, people can do conditioning exercises that make the sport safer:
•Endurance exercises, especially with an aerobic component, can help train the muscles so fatigue doesn't lead to injury at the end of an 8 hour ski day.
•Strength training that focuses on the major muscle groups in the legs, especially those used in skiing, can help skiers stabilize and control their bodies. Core exercises to help link upper and lower body movements are also important, as are balance exercises that emphasize stability.
•"Ski specific" exercises can help train for the side-to-side motions required by the sport. One simple but effective exercise to prepare for skiing is to practice jumping from side to side over a line of tape on the floor, using both feet and then using one foot at a time.