How to Keep Your Knees Healthy After Skiing
Skiing has long been a sport associated with knee pain and injuries. Knee injuries account for 25 percent of total injuries experienced on the mountain. Preventing knee injuries on the slopes and knee pain after a day of skiing can rely on a number of factors, ranging from your skiing ability, to your gear, and your overall physical fitness.
This guide is geared toward helping you understand the correlation between knee health and skiing and what you can do to protect yourself.
Does Skiing Damage Knees?
Knee pain is something many skiers have experienced. Common symptoms of knee pain include instability of the knee, popping, weakness, warmth, stiffness, and more. Such knee pain can range from simple inflammation to MCL injuries, ACL injuries, dislocation of the knee, and more. Knee injuries take place when the knee is twisted or extended beyond its normal range.
It’s easy to blame the sport of skiing for knee damage and injuries, but this damage is typically caused by skiing form, skiing outside of your limits, and a number of other factors associated with skiing safety.
Causes of Knee Pain and Injuries While Skiing
Knee injuries and pain that occur while skiing are typically due to skiing in dangerous conditions, with poor form, or beyond the skier’s limits. The following are the most common causes of knee pain and injuries on the mountain.
- Improper form: Learning to ski with proper form is essential to keeping yourself and others safe. Beginners should always take lessons with a qualified instructor.
- Falling incorrectly: Falling is common in the sport of skiing, and a qualified ski instructor can teach you how to fall correctly, without stiffening the entire body.
- Inclement conditions: Skiers need to understand their abilities and whether or not their able to tackle certain terrain and conditions. Know your abilities for skiing on ice, in powder, or on moguls and avoid such conditions if you’re not ready.
- Skiing when tired: Always listen to your body before, during, and after skiing. Being too sore or too tired can result in injury. Similarly, dehydration can impair your judgement, coordination, and body functionality.
- Incorrect gear: Skiing is an extreme sport, and the gear you use has a major effect on the way you ski. Always buy skis and other equipment that have been properly fitted by the professionals at a ski shop. It could be the difference between a successful season and one disrupted by a knee injury.
Combating Knee Pain Before You Ski
Preventing knee pain and injury has a lot to do with the days you spend off the mountain. Orthopedic specialists recommend maintaining a healthy weight as one of the top ways to avoid knee injuries and pain. Practicing balance and strength training will also lead to optimal functionality of the knees. Keeping yourself well-conditioned when you’re not on the slopes can promote skiing knee health and help prevent injury on the mountain.
Another major way to combat knee pain before it happens is to have your gear fitted by professionals. Your skis, bindings, and boots must fit appropriately to avoid unnecessary knee pain. Don’t forego lessons with a certified instructor if you’re new to skiing, as lessons will teach you proper skiing techniques that reduce the chance of injury.
Alleviating Knee Pain After Skiing
You’re not alone if your knees hurt after skiing. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to alleviate general knee pain. However, more serious injuries may require physical therapy or surgical care.
General knee pain after skiing can be treated with basic first aid and skiing stretches. Many athletes are already aware of the RICE way of treating minor injuries or pain.
- Rest: Allow yourself rest from the sport of skiing and other physical activities until the pain subsides.
- Ice: Apply an ice pack to the knee for short periods of time.
- Compression: Use a medical elastic bandage to provide compression.
- Elevation: Elevate your knee with pillows while sitting or laying down until it is resting above your heart.
Stretches for knee pain should be practiced before and after hitting the slopes. Some of the best stretches for recovery after a day on the mountain include the following:
- Downward dog: The downward dog stretch is a common yoga move that works the back, calves, and hamstrings to alleviate knee pain as well as other soreness associated with skiing.
- Knee roll: This stretch involves laying on your back on the floor with your knees bent. You’ll lower your legs to the floor and hold that position for five seconds before rolling them back to the center and to the other side.
- Knee-to-chest: This simple stretch of laying flat on the ground and pulling one knee to your chest at a time is an excellent way to ease knee pain while stretching the glutes and lower back after skiing.
Using a foam roller is another proven-effective way to alleviate knee pain after skiing. Foam rollers increase blood flow, restore elasticity of the muscle fascia, relieve muscle soreness, and smooth out knots.
Proper knee health is essential to preventing injury, enjoying your time on the mountain, and experiencing minimal pain and soreness after a day on the slopes. Understanding proper skiing form, buying well-fitted equipment, following the RICE first-aid method, and staying in excellent physical condition can help keep your knees healthy before, during, and after a long day on the mountain.