Dr Colin Crosby
MA (Oxon) FFSEM (UK) FFSEM(I) MB BS (Lond) LRCP MRCS is one of the very few full-time Specialists in Sport and Exercise Medicine in the UK
The lack of snow earlier in the season followed by heavy snowfalls over Christmas and early January, have resulted in rather unstable conditions in the European Resorts with a higher than usual risk of avalanche.
For less experienced skiers, it is important to keep to the well-bashed pistes and to check the daily run conditions.
More experienced skiers will still be tempted to go off-piste in search of powder but the avalanche risks in such areas are considerably greater and extreme care must be taken after discussion with local guides before considering such routes.
As always, you will enjoy your skiing more if you are in good shape beforehand, since it is a high exertion, high altitude, fast and demanding sport and remember, fatigue causes more injuries than crevasses!
At least 6 weeks of ski specific training 3 times a week is required if you are not doing any other regular exercise and flexibility training, in particular hamstrings and quadriceps are very helpful, along with strengthening work on the same muscles. Knee extension and flexion resistance training, plyometric work such as bench jumps and side to side jumps also help prepare the lower limb for the rigours of the slopes.
Even more than most sports, well fitted equipment is crucial for safe skiing and if you do not have your own skis and boots then take time in the fitting room to ensure you are comfortable and secure. Do not be reluctant to exchange equipment if you feel, for any reason, that it is not suitable for you.
Injuries occur in the first few runs of the morning when people are cold, stiff and unprepared, as well as in the afternoon when the combination of melting snow surface and – perhaps – the occasional Glühwein makes for increased difficulty in turning. Be prepared to do a few minutes warm up exercises at the top of long chairlifts and T-bars since the thighs become cold and relatively unresponsive and it is unwise to ski directly onto the steepest of slopes as soon as you come off a lift!
All areas of the body are at risk in skiing, including the head and neck, and helmets are now advised for all ages. Lumbar spinal injuries from falls and direct collisions are not uncommon and of course upper limb injuries related to falls and to the ski poles are also common.
Frequent twisting and turning, especially in the flexed position puts huge strains on the knee and this is the joint that is seen most frequently in the ski injury clinic.
Finally, even in bright sunshine, do not be tempted to ski in jeans and t-shirt; only those experts who never fall over at all in a season can do this comfortably. One or two contacts with the snow can lead to severe friction and burns on exposed limbs and jeans soon become wet, leading to significant heat loss and muscle fatigue. Even if it is warm enough to take off the thermals, keep the long sleeve shirts and ski pants on!
Dr Colin Crosby is the Sports and Exercise Medicine Consultant at a number of London hospitals as well as London Imaging Centre. He is one of the few full time SEM specialists in the UK and has been working in the field for over 25 years and he sees private patients from Monday to Friday, for further please call us on 020 7467 8800 or visit his website here.