Updated: Jan 10, 2020
People of all fitness levels and flexibilities will be considering a winter getaway this winter. I, myself, have been looking at these snow-capped mountains in southern Calfornia with longing. If we get as much snow as we got last year, the season should be full of powder and plentiful. Other than new equipment, of course, put a winter checkup on your wishlist to ensure you’re ready to hit the slopes. Many issues that arise such as back pain and knee disasters could have easily been prevented given the right strategy.
Before you go:
Always have wristguards and helmets!
I can’t tell you how many people come back with concussions (worse: more severe traumatic brain injury), wrist sprains, broken elbows or wrists.
Here’s a checklist to avoid injury this winter season:
Hip strengthening and hip range of motion is a must: Do me a favor and stand up. With one of your legs straightened, turn it inwards and outwards (internal and external rotation). Ideally, you should be able to turn it in about 45-60 degrees. Toeing out should be about 70-90 degrees from neutral. This test should be performed with your hip and back in neutral so that you aren’t cheating by bending over. This will help your knees and your back during your time on the slopes.
A quick note: foot rotation and the way you walk may affect how your hip rotates. If you are flat-footed or tend to pronate when your feet are bound in you can set yourself up for a nasty knee injury.
Feeling like that range isn’t quite optimal? Here is a tip to improve your rotation.
If you find it painful to get into these end ranges, get it checked out and worked on by your local Doctor of Physical Therapy.
Knee Self Assessment
Try the following assessment to see if your knees track well.
Ideally, you are doing single-leg squats about 20 per leg and able to hold a single-leg squatted position for anywhere between 30-90 seconds for balance and endurance.
If you are having issues with this, try the praying mantis exercise below!
Overall you need a hip and knee complex that works for you. Try this exercise to really drive it home.
During your time in the snow:
Saving your back really depends on how you stand on your board or between your skis. Being at the precise center of balance will keep you from having to strain muscles and joints that you need for the rest of your life. The stronger your abdominal muscles the better. It will help you keep balance in all kinds of terrain as well as keeping that center of gravity low. Dynamic abdominal strengthening exercises such as planks on a ball either under your feet or elbows will be just enough of a challenge to help prepare you for sudden losses of balance while boarding/skiing.
In Case of a Wipeout:
Snowboarders and your coccyx and sacrum: If you find yourself not being able to walk or sit after landing on your bottom, see someone. You have a great bundle of nerves that can contribute to sciatic pain and lower back and even headaches.
Head and Neck:
Make sure you know what date and time and if you recall how you got to the slopes and what happened in the morning or even the day prior. If your friend lands hard, make sure you ask questions to test long term and short term memory. If speech is funny and you find yourself asking the same questions or can’t remember what happened a second ago, go to the ski patrol and let them know what happened.
In recent years, there are many studies showing brain changes long after head traumas from earlier incidents. In worst-case scenarios, a major hit in the head can land you unconscious or worst yet with a brain hemorrhage. BE CAREFUL!!!
After the Slopes
If you wipeout no matter how minor or severe, always ice up. Heed my warning about the hot tub…DO NOT JUMP INTO THE HOT TUB after your day and avoid alcohol. It may seem like a good idea at the time but it promotes inflammation and swelling in a body that already has little space for those things.
Have a safe time out on the slopes and take in a breath of cold fresh air for me.
Your Friend at Rehab and Revive,
Dr. Justin C. Lin