Skiing and snowboarding are two of the area's most popular winter sports.  Dean Pinciotti, P.T. points out that, "Both sports entail a high risk of injury ...especially for people who are not in good shape, and for  those who do not take time to learn about proper techniques and equipment.  Injuries are particularly common when skiers and riders are too tired."
Dean Pinciotti, Co-owner and Director of Sports Physical Therapy Institute, offers the following tips to help skiers and snowboarders prepare for the season and prevent injuries on the slopes.


Preparing for the Ski Season

  • Skiers should do aerobic exercises such as jogging, cycling, and aerobic dancing for at least 20 minutes, three days a week.  Skiers who are in good overall condition will not fatigue as quickly, and will be at less risk for injuries.
  • Do exercises to strengthen the thighs, hamstrings, calves, hips and groin.  To isolate muscle groups used in skiing, do simple exercises or use exercise equipment such as fiberglass slide boards and ski simulators.
  • Stretching exercises, which should not be painful, should be done before and after activity.  Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and do not bounce while stretching.
  • For beginners: Before hitting the slopes, take a few lessons from a ski instructor to learn proper techniques and minimize injury.


Preventing Skiing Injuries

  • The leading cause of severe lower extremity skiing injuries is ski bindings that do not properly release during falls.  All equipment, especially bindings, should be checked before every outing.  Boots and their bindings should fit snugly and securely to protect the ankle from moving inside the boot.
  • With the new higher boots that fit just below the knee, knee ligament injuries have become more common in skiers.  Knee ligament tears may reoccur without proper treatment and rehabilitation.  All ligament tears should be evaluated by an orthopedic treatment.
  • When dressing for a ski outing, consider wind chill, humidity, and of course temperature.  Dress in layers to trap warm air.  The layer closest to the skin should not be fabric that absorbs perspiration.  Non-absorbing wool and some synthetics such as polypropylene are recommended to keep moisture away from the body.  The outer layer should be water- and wind-resistant.  As you begin to ski, you should feel slightly cool.  Then, your body will warm up as you increase your activity.
  • To help prevent frostbite and hypothermia, wear a thin pair of gloves underneath a heavier pair; wear a face shield or goggles; apply petroleum jelly to exposed areas; and always wear a wool or nylon ski cap since up to 40% of total body heat can be lost through the head.
  • Even skiers who consider themselves advanced should start each outing with a warm-up on a lower level slope before hitting steep slopes.  To help minimize muscle soreness and injury, do pre-skiing easy calisthenics or jogging in place followed by overall stretching exercises.  This is especially important if you have been riding in a car for a long distance.
  • Fluid replacement is just as essential in cold weather as in hot.  Drinking plenty of fluids helps minimize heat loss and early fatigue.  Cool water is the best choice, while drinks high in salts and low in sugar are also good.
  • Since many skiing injuries occur when skiers are tired, it is important to rest when you feel fatigued.  Don't try to do too much.  Know your skill level and stay within your limitations, especially when skiing in groups.


Tips for Safe Snowboarding

  • Since more than half of all snowboarding injuries occur in beginners, it's a good idea to take a few lessons from a qualified instructor at a ski resort.  For first-time snowboarders  learning balance techniques, using poles may be helpful.
  • The most common injury in snowboarders is the wrist fracture, which usually occurs when outreached hands break falls.  Instructors can teach safer ways to fall, and wearing wrist pads can help cushion falls.
  • In addition to wrist pads, other protective equipment should be worn to help prevent injury, including knee pads, helmets and layered clothing.
  • Because snowboarders and skiers share the slopes, collisions often occur.  Keep an eye out for those around you.
  • Finally, have fun with whatever winter sports you do.  Just because it is winter doesn't mean you have to stay inside.