February is a popular time for skiing, Mr. Saket Tibrewal, Consultant Knee Surgeon shares some advice around the most common knee skiing injuries, how to prevent them, what to do if you do sustain an injury and treatment options if you do occur an injury.
What are the most common skiing injuries?
The most commonly injured joint when skiing is the knee, accounting for over 1/3 of injuries. These injuries usually occur following a fall where the ski binding does not release causing a twisting force across the knee joint. The vast majority of injuries are to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the menisci (cartilage).
Why are we seeing more skiing-related knee injuries?
We are certainly seeing more knee injuries during the skiing season and there are multiple factors:
- Ski design – Modern skis are more curved and tend to “carve” through the snow. This may have the effect of steering the ski away from the body and twisting the knee.
- Boot design – Modern boots do a very good job of protecting the ankles and shins but this can result in more force being transmitted to the knees, increasing the risk of injury.
- Poor preparation – Skiing is becoming ever more popular, however those who lack adequate fitness or preparation are at increased risk of injury.
When do most injuries occur?
Most injuries occur in the afternoon, particularly towards the end of your holiday week. This is when the fatigue really starts to kick in and you are most vulnerable to injury.
What can I do to prevent injuries?
It is difficult to go from a relatively sedentary office environment to spending several hours each day being active on the slopes. The physical aspect of skiing requires a combination of core strength, aerobic fitness, proprioception and balance. In order to manage this, it is essential to train properly prior to your holiday.
- Start your physical preparation at least 6-8 weeks prior to your skiing trip. Ensure you work on your core muscle strength and aerobic fitness. Regular swimming, cycling and using a cross-trainer are all good options. There are also ski-specific preparation programmes available through physiotherapists.
- If you are new to skiing, take lessons. A good skiing technique minimises your risk of injury.
- Take a rest day – muscle fatigue reaches its peak 48 hours after you hit the slopes. If you start to feel the fatigue after a few days then take a rest day.
- Avoid drinking alcohol at lunchtime! As tempting as it may be to have a drink on the slopes, it increases your confidence and decreases your reaction speed which could be a perfect recipe for an injury.
What should I do if I sustain an injury?
- Make sure that you have adequate medical insurance before you leave home.
- Most ski resorts have excellent medical facilities and are very experienced at treating skiing injuries.
- If you are unlucky enough to break a bone, in the majority of cases it makes sense to have these treated, and if required operated on, before you fly home. Other injuries can usually wait for definitive treatment until you get back.
- A normal x-ray does not exclude other injuries within the knee. If you are concerned then see a specialist knee surgeon when you return home for a proper assessment and further imaging (MRI scan) if required.
What are the treatment options?
Anterior cruciate ligament tears are the most common knee injuries. In general they should be treated once you have arrived home, with the gold standard being reconstruction of the ligament. Operating on a swollen stiff knee very soon after a knee injury may result in a poor outcome. In the first few days and weeks following an ACL injury, the priority is to reduce the swelling and increase the range of motion of the knee. Surgery can be safely performed weeks or even months, after the initial injury. A simple brace and crutches should be enough to help you on your journey home.
Knee Treatment at Ramsay Health Care
One of the major advantages of seeing a knee surgeon privately is that your appointments and treatment are arranged at times to suit you without any unnecessary waiting. This is especially important if you are in a lot of pain or if you want to plan surgery around you and your commitments.
At Ramsay Health Care, you will be treatment by experienced orthopaedic surgeons with a special interest in knee surgery who will be able to discuss your individual needs and select the best treatment for you.
Find out more here.