If you’re one of the many avid skiers who looks forward to the colder months all year long, you know how much of a setback an ACL injury can be. With a short season, it’s essential to get the most from your time on the slopes. Recovering from ACL surgery can take six to nine months, which can be devastating for any type of athlete, but especially for one who has only a limited opportunity to do their favorite activity.
An ACL injury typically happens when you pivot while the knee is hyperextended. In the case of skiing, this injury most often occurs when landing a jump or skiing moguls. It can also happen when you take a fall in certain positions or if your bindings do not release. Because it is typically the result of a specific motion, it’s possible to take steps to avoid this type of injury so you can enjoy the entire ski season.
Use Proper Technique
When landing a jump, focus on shifting your weight forward. Although it might feel more comfortable to shift your weight back, when you land in this position the force can put unnecessary pressure on the ACL and possibly lead to a tear.
It’s also important for skiers to learn how to fall properly. For many, the natural instinct is to try to stand up during a fall, but this can actually lead to an ACL injury because of the way your weight shifts as your body rotates. When you feel yourself start to fall, relax into the direction of the momentum and allow it to happen. Nobody likes to fall when skiing, but trying to do it correctly can mean the difference between a great ski day and a lengthy recovery.
It’s also important to recognize when your body is tired. Try to avoid ending a long day of skiing with a final vigorous run on the moguls or a big jump. Try spending some time warming up on easier slopes, tackling the bigger adventures when your energy level is at its peak, and then tapering through the late afternoon so you can try and finish the day without injury.
Finally, make sure you are using appropriately sized gear and that your bindings are properly adjusted so that your skis come off during a fall. This may help minimize your risk of sustaining an ACL injury when you take a tumble.
One of the best ways to help avoid any type of injury is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints that are most likely to be affected. For skiers, strengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings before the season starts may help prevent all type of knee injuries. Doing regular stretching exercises for those same muscles may also help you maintain range of motion so you can consistently use proper form.
If you suffer a knee injury while skiing, you should consider seeing a specialist. If you do have to have surgery or just need rest and physical therapy, there are a few steps you can take to help speed up your recovery. An ACL injury comes with pain and swelling, both of which can be treated with cold to help numb the pain and active compression to pump away excess fluid. This combination has also been shown to accelerate the healing process by reducing cellular metabolism and allowing damaged tissues to repair themselves more quickly. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about using a system like Game Ready to deliver therapeutic cold and active compression.
If you do sustain an ACL injury that requires surgery, download our free Guide to Knee Surgery Recovery for more tips on speeding up the healing process so you can get back on the slopes faster.