Great news you didn’t have to take the toboggan ride down the mountain. Bad news, something still hurts and you can’t ski the way you want… Now what?? We thought we would cover some of the most common questions surrounding ski injuries, ski injury rehab, and what you should know about your injuries to get back on the mountains.
What are the most common ski injuries?
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture or sprain.
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL) rupture or sprain.
- Shoulder sprains, fractures and dislocations.
- Wrist and thumb fractures.
- Head injuries, whiplash and concussion.
What should I do first for my ski injury?
Initially after the injury the best thing would be to do is call it a day on the slopes. Once there has been some trauma to a muscle, ligament, or tendon you don’t want to cause further damage. 3 reasons to call it a day and stop skiing if you think you are hurt when skiing (or snowboarding):
1) It could become a more serious problem. Continuing to stress an area that you have injured will likely make it worse not better. The more you stress it the more the problem will get worse.
2) Continuing to ski/ride on an injury will put you at an increased risk of falling again and maybe injuring yourself worse.
3) It will take longer to heal- We need to stay active, but not stress the injury area. If we continue to ski/ride it will continue to stress the area, this may include even if you don’t feel anything, and will prolong the healing process
Should I use Ice or Heat for my skiing injury?
Well if you are on the mountain you are already close to snow which is pretty much ice so that is what is easiest and what I should use right? I’d go with personal preference and it likely will change depending on which tissues are irritated. The research has gone back and forth on which will help you most. Some say ice helps to decrease inflammation, but others say it can delay healing. The main thing to remember is that ice or heat will not heal you but will be an adjunct to your recovery. Ice and heat are really just meant to alter your pain in the short run. If on the mountain snow will definitely be more accessible!
If I’m injured when skiing, should I just let it rest?
Yes and No. While some rest is good, doing nothing can also delay your healing time or lead to other limitations. DO NOT LAY ON THE COUCH ALL DAY! We want to move but not stress the injured tissues. Better to think about it as decreasing your activity level, but while staying active to allow the tissues to start to heal but not get stiff.
Focus on LIGHT mobility. Goal is to keep up your mobility in the area at and around the injury location in a mostly pain free manner. I give my patients the goal of when moving keep it at a 3/10 or less on the discomfort scale with 0 being feeling nothing and 10 feeling like you need to go to the ER. Mobility helps with healing by keeping good blood flow and preventing the tissues from getting overly tight and restricted.
Medical attention needed?
If the symptoms do not start to improve within 48 hours and your injury is more than a bruise it is time to get a medical professional to take a look. Another guideline is if you miss 2 workouts or ski days and/or modify 3 other days of activity you probably have an injury and should seek out further assistance. I would recommend starting with a sports specific physical therapy familiar with ski injuries. In most states you can go directly to a PT w/o needing a referral from your physician. In Colorado and the West you should be able to find someone who ski/snowboards and is familiar with the movements and demands of your sport. Finding the right person will cut down on the time lag from your injury to starting treatment to skiing (or snowboarding) again. Almost always the faster you seek treatment the faster you will recover. Physical therapists are biomechanical specialists which can evaluate you and determine what can be done to help you get back to skiing and other activities. Here at KinetikChain we are all skiers or snowboarders and love to help people just like you. If needed a physical therapist can refer you out to another medical provider for imaging, but this would probably only be needed if we thought a surgery was likely needed.
There is bruising after my fall skiing? Is this normal?
Typically when there is bruising present trauma has been done to the muscle, meaning you probably have suffered some degree of a tear. The tear may be very small. The degree of the tear will vary depending on the mechanism of injury. DO NOT FREAK OUT! This does not mean you need to rush out to get an MRI. If you are able to ski off the mountain you mostly like do not have a complete tear. But If you can not move the limb at all, that is a reason to schedule, a follow up with a physician and probably an MRI is needed. For this blog we are focusing more on the injuries that do not need surgery. With the bruising you need time to let the muscle heal, but there are several physical therapy treatments that can help speed up the recovery process.
Ski Injury Prevention!! What Do I Do?
The best way to treat an injury is to not let it happen! We know this is not always possible but creating a ski injury prevention routine or preparing your body for skiing or any other physical activity is a good rule to live by. Before the ski season starts, begin a mobility and strengthening training program that works on preventing the common injuries seen with skiing. Think about training in multiple planes of movement. With skiing We don’t just move in the straight forward direction so we should not just train that way. We need to train in side to side movements as well as rotational movements as well. Please see our ski injury prevention and optimal performance blog for more tips on how to get ready for the ski season.
When to get back out on the Slopes?
Once you are feeling no limitations with daily activities start progressing back into your dry land training workout routine. If you don’t have a normal dry land workout routine see the prevention ski blog for ideas. The goal with these workouts is to test out a variety of movements on land prior to getting back out there on more variable terrain. What movements you need to focus on will depend on the location of the injury. This is where consulting with a sports specialist physical therapist will provide you with the best approach to knowing when you are ready to get back on the slopes and provide you with a more specific timeframe. Think of it not only as getting rid of the pain, but also like having your own personal skiing coach that can help you to improve all of the movements involved in skiing, help you to prevent future injuries, and have you skiing better than ever.