Stay safe while enjoying the slopes

The practice of strapping a board to each foot to make snow travel more manageable dates back to ancient times. Originally utilized to aid hunters, this olden practice has now developed into a major sports industry.

Although there are multiple variations of skiing, alpine and downhill skiing are the most popular and exciting. Amazingly, competitive downhill skiers can now reach speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour. Unfortunately, the nature and degree of injuries are no less dramatic.

Most ski injuries involve the lower extremities and include:

Knee sprain. Excessive twisting of the knee joint will often result in sprained or torn ligaments with subsequent damage to the cartilage.
Broken bones. Collisions and high speed falls will cause bones in the thigh and lower leg to fracture.
Lower spine injuries. Twisting and bending the lumbar spine can cause muscle strains and disc herniation.

Any injury that occurs on a mountain has the potential complexity of being in a remote area. Avoiding hypothermia is another challenge. Fortunately, most resorts provide adequate ski patrol personnel trained in first aid and wilderness medicine.

While many skiers are preparing their equipment and attire for the approaching holiday, skiing fitness should not be overlooked. Geoff Fabry is an experienced skier and supervisor of outpatient physical therapy in Rehabilitation Services at the Backus Outpatient Care Center.

“Any physical preparation for skiing must include a combination of aerobic and resistive training,” Fabry said. He recommends workouts that emphasize the lower extremities and core muscles.

Lunges and squats can be done as part of a strength regimen as well as being included in a stretching program just before going out on the trail. Aerobic exercises such as hill and stair climbing build stamina and fortify core muscles.
Proper physical preparation and utilizing modern, safe ski equipment is crucial to enjoying a day on the slopes.

Anthony G. Alessi, MD, is Chief of Neurology at The William W. Backus Hospital and in private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC, in Norwich. E-mail him at, or listen to his podcasts, comment on his blog or buy his book at

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