Preventing Injuries by Dr. Elfenbein
When the snow is falling and the mountains are calling, what can you do to protect yourself from ski and snowboard injuries? The answer is plenty - both physical and mental preparation for the slopes is key. Whether it is resort, backcountry, or cross-country riding that gets you jazzed, the right preparation can make all the difference.
Start by taking stock of your fitness level. If you haven't gotten off the couch since last fall, then pre-season fitness training will help strengthen the legs, improve your aerobic capacity, and allow you to enjoy your sport more. If it is too late in the season for a fitness program, then make sure you take it slow and progress at your own pace to avoid injury or medical illness. If you are going to a place with significant (5000 ft. or more) elevation increase from where you live, try to give yourself some time to acclimate to the altitude and be sure to stay well-hydrated drinking plenty of water. Avoid over-indulgence in alcohol, especially early on in your trip.
Stretching programs (including yoga and Pilates) can be very helpful at increasing flexibility and thus preventing injury. Pulled muscles, a wrenched back, and even ligament sprains can all be reduced by improving your flexibility.
Strengthening, particularly of the legs and the core, will not only improve your skiing and riding ability and technique, but can actually help prevent ligament injuries and falls of all types. When your legs and core are strong, you can go longer, hit it harder, and ride safer.
Lastly, your mental preparation is key. Know your abilities and your fitness level. Challenging yourself is awesome - it allows you to improve your skills. Always ride with confidence but never let your confidence exceed your skill level.
David H. Elfenbein, MD