by Stacy Choquette, PTA
Now that our days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder, many of us are breaking out our equipment for a good tune up before hitting the slopes. New Englanders of all ages take part in some sort of winter activity whether it be skating, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or sledding. While these activities keep us active and can be very challenging, they become even more demanding as we age. As we get older our bodies become less tolerant to injury. As a snowboarder, I understand the risks. My training as a physical therapy assistant gives me an edge to minimize the chance of injury, so I can stay healthy and enjoy the entire season to its fullest.
As a child, I used to strap on my board and head down the mountain without thinking twice about how I would feel the next day. As the years passed, I noticed my body was less forgiving when I did not adequately train. The results were shorter days of snowboarding and increased muscle soreness and fatigue. According to the National Ski Areas Association, in the last 10 years there were forty-five deaths and forty-two serious injuries on average per year among skiers and snowboarders across the world. Common injuries on the mountains include ligament tears, fractured bones, concussions and dislocations. This figure does not include the sprains, strains and minor bumps and scrapes we have all had that cut our days on the slopes short. While some of us may have experienced these before, there are ways to help decrease the risk of it happening during this winter season.
Endurance training is something people often leave out when getting ready for skiing or boarding. If you have an intermediate to advanced level of skill, it takes much less energy to make it from the summit to the base of the mountain. What is often misjudged is the amount of fatigue that builds each subsequent run. The majority of injuries occur toward the end of the day when skiers or boarders are tired. To help prevent this and extend your day, start some endurance training two months prior to the season. Try thirty minutes a day, three days a week. Jogging, biking, swimming and gym equipment such as the elliptical trainer are all good choices!
Strength training is crucial to staying health during the snow season. Not only can it help your muscle soreness but it stabilizes your joints to decrease the risk of injury and prepares you for the tough season ahead! Being stronger means you’ll be able to take impact and perform rapid maneuvers more comfortably. You want to focus on your legs and core. Arms are mostly used for balance. Leg strengthening can be simple and includes exercises such as squats, lunges, calf raises and lateral squats. Wall sits are great for your quads and will help ward off muscle fatigue on the way down the mountain. Core strengthening can be achieved from basic exercises such as crunches, planks, Russian twists, and back extensions. Don’t forget balance exercises. Using balance equipment such as Rocker boards, Bosus, Physioballs, and Airex pads can help strengthen your core and your legs at the same time. There are hundreds of exercises you can do with each of these.
I hope this information helps you to understand the risks and gets you motivated to stay healthy and injury free. This season, take the challenge, get healthy, and hit the slopes!
Stacy Choquette is a Physical Therapy Assistant at Boston Sports Medicine