Orthopedic surgeons at The Center in Bend see an increased number of knee injuries and fractures during the months when people are skiing the slopes regularly. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for powder days to end on a painful note for some skiers who can experience a torn ligament in their knee. While all injuries can’t be avoided, there are some ways to help prevent knee injuries from skiing.

The knee is made up of four main things: bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. A ligament is a short band of tough fibrous tissue that connects bone to bone. The four primary ligaments in your knee hold the bones together and help stabilize your knee. Ligaments can become easily injured because the knee joint relies just on ligaments and surrounding muscles for stability. Skiing often requires rapid change in direction and hard muscle contraction, which are movements that can cause ligament damage.

Two of the ligaments that are commonly damaged from skiing are the ACL and MCL. These types of injuries account for 20 – 33% of all skiing related injuries.

Those at higher risk:

  • Females
  • Those with little core strength
  • Overweight individuals
  • Beginner skiers

Other factors such as trail and mountain conditions, quality of equipment, and prior ligamentous injury can also increase the risk of a knee injury.

Proper preparation is key to avoiding knee injuries from skiing. Consider the following to help avoid injury:

  • Strength training exercises and focus on flexibility
  • Learn correct ski technique by taking lessons from the professionals
  • Weather and mountain conditions can play a big factor in injuries. Keep up-to-date on the latest snow reports and consider the conditions before you go.
  • When on the mountain, be mindful of your body and how you are feeling. Rest to keep your body from fatiguing, which can increase your likelihood of injury.
  • Evaluate your ski equipment, which should fit properly and be appropriate for your height, weight, and ski level.

Strength training before and during ski season can make a significant difference in injury prevention. Before beginning a training program, it’s suggested to modify exercises according to age and ability, and to always check with your doctor.

Beneficial exercises that can help build core strength and knee stability include:

  • Double leg squats
  • Single leg squats
  • Side to side skaters
  • Side plank or leg lifts
  • Hamstring curls
  • Deadlifts
  • Modified wall sits

Practice these exercises regularly, along with proper body alignment, balance training, stretching, and warming up before heading to the mountain.

When a knee is first injured, the RICE method can help speed recovery. If the injury is not responding to rest, ice, compression, and elevation, an orthopedic specialist should be seen as soon as possible. If you hear a “pop” have significant pain or swelling, or sense instability in the knee, make an appointment or use The Center’s NOWcare walk-in clinic, open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.