Preventing ACL Injuries in Skiing

Preventing Knee Injuries in Skiing

By Lissa Fraser MScPT Registered Physiotherapist, recreational skier and owner of Fresh Tracks Physiotherapy

All sports and activities carry some degree of injury risk with them and unfortunately knee injuries tend to be the most common in skiing both in recreational and avid skiers. Of these knee injuries, ACL or anterior cruciate ligaments tears are some of the most serious as they often require surgery and come with a long recovery period. While not all injuries are preventable, there are some risk factors which can be modified.

  • Injuries occur most commonly when skiers are fatigued so maintaining physical fitness and strength pre- and during the season as well as resting when appropriate are important preventative strategies.
  • Injuries occur more often in females than males which is thought to be because landing mechanics in women tend to be more quadriceps dominant and in knee extension. Thus muscular training focusing on hamstring strengthening and landing in a more flexed knee position can also be effective injury prevention strategies.
  • Although not the main focus of this article, additional effective injury prevention strategies include appropriate use of equipment (ie. correct size and fit, correct DIN binding setting etc) and good skiing technique. Receiving ski instruction from a professional is a worthwhile investment.

Neuromuscular training programs have been shown in research to reduce the risk of sustaining an ACL injury. Specifically, programs which include landing stabilization exercises (ie. drop landings, jump/hop), hamstring strength and lunges have been shown to be most effective.

As physiotherapists who ski these are some of our favourite pre-habilitation and throughout ski season exercises to reduce the risk of sustaining a knee (specifically an ACL) injury.

  1. Lateral Lunge

  1. Lateral bosu jump/land

  1. Step Back Lunge

  1. Landing mechanics

  1. Split squat

  1. Single leg Russian dead lift

  1. Single leg balance with toe touch

Important points to note:

  • ensure good hip-knee-foot alignment (use a mirror!)
  • try not to let your knee drift over your toes in squat positions, you may need to shift your weight into your heel
  • don’t forget about your core – engaging your abdominals is the key to good balance
Lissa Fraser, Registered Physiotherapist, Clinic Owner
Fresh Tracks Physiotherapy
Unit 205 -1978 Cliffe Ave., Courtenay, BC V9N 2L1
p. 250.871.7177    f. 1.250.483.1991

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Ronah Berfelde
Ronah Berfelde
1 year ago

Thanks for sharing this program with us! I know it is especiallly for knee injury prevention, but can you also recommend the same exercises to do after knee surgergy, as recovery exercises or is it better to find different ones? Cheers!!

Ronah Berfelde
Ronah Berfelde
1 year ago
Reply to  Lissa Fraser

Thanks Lissa! 🙂

Michael Blythe
Michael Blythe
1 year ago

Thanks for the info. One additional thing I’ve heard is that some (a lot?) of ACL tears occur when you’re trying to save a fall. Is there any truth to this? If so, should you just go down if you’re going down, and not fight it?

Ursula Heinz
Ursula Heinz
1 year ago

Excellent article! I guess many can benefit from practicing these exercises and strengthening these muscle groups. Thanks for posting!

gpatters
gpatters
1 year ago

Good article, Lissa. While a knee injury can occur at any time (as competitive skiers sadly show) I tend to find I have my most alarming moments early in the season when legs are not yet strong and balance/technique is not yet up to speed.

Do you have any similar advice on hips?

gpatters
gpatters
1 year ago
Reply to  Lissa Fraser

Thanks for those thoughts . My most flexible days are probably a few decades back. These days I try to stay active as I can off season and then (mostly) ski longer stays – multiple weeks/months – so I can ease in to it rather than feel I need to extract value from every minute from the 1st day back on skis. My biggest issue is getting tempted on the fabulous pow days and over-indulging in the bumps. Just another few runs! Feels fine at the time but seems to take a toll in the following days. 🙁 Is there… Read more »

gpatters
gpatters
1 year ago
Reply to  Lissa Fraser

All good points. Had to google “self myofascial release” 🙂

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