Pain Relief For Arthritis Happy Valley & Sandy, OR

Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

Skiing Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

What we learned in part I:

  1. Knee injuries make up about 1/3 of all skiing injuries.
  2. There are 3 major types of falls that cause knee injuries in skiing: slip catch, dynamic snowplow, and landing back weighted.
  3. The mechanism of injury for ACL and other ligament injuries in the knee are rapid twist across the knee (slip catch and dynamic snowplow) or a forceful forward jerk of the shin (landing back weighted).
  4. Studies show a reduced rate of ACL injuries in skiers who practice exercise based injury prevention activities.

What do I need to do to keep my knees safe?

Like we mentioned in part I, make sure your skis fit you, are well tuned, and you are skiing in terrain that is appropriate. Beyond those basics it comes down to how you ski. Here are some exercises and a short explanation of how they will help you improve the safety of your knees on the slopes:

Squat with band simulates bringing a ski up onto its edge and is how you should be controlling speed. Click Images to enlarge.

Skiing1 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(correct) Focus on keeping your feet shoulder width and knees over your toes to prevent the A-frame stance that forces your ski onto its edge.

Skiing2 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(wrong) A-framed stance showing under-active glutes. Will cause one ski to be on edge and the other ski to be flat (increased risk slip catch or snow plow injury)

Skiing3 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(correct) Keeping shins near vertical means use of coordinated hip and knee motion that helps the hip protect the knee.

Skiing4 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(wrong) Forward knees: means weakness at the hip and increases load on the knee (higher risk of injury).

Skiing5 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(very wrong) forward knees and lifted heels: demonstrates further problems at the hip (bro, do you even ski?).

Being able to “push your knee to the outside” is actually done from the hip. It is a key to keeping your inside ski firmly on edge, which keeps you from catching an edge (slip catch and dynamic snowplow type falls). Practice preventing the A-framed stance. When your knees go past your toes it is likely that you are resting your shins on the front of your boot. Instead, try standing inside of the boot, not leaning against them. When you lean, bumps/moguls/unidentified cliffs are passed through the boot to the bones (ever gotten a bruise from your ski boots?).

Box Jumps (up) simulate moving into the top of a turn (when your ski tips move from across the hill to downhill).

Skiing6 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(correct) Strong Stable hip preventing A-frame in jumping

Skiing7 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(correct) Push through your hips and knees to become long all at once (not allowing hips or knees to push first).

Skiing8 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(correct) Just like squatting, make sure you don’t A-frame or allow your knees ahead of your toes when jumping from the floor.

Skiing9 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(correct) landing like you are moving into a squat; hips and knees move together. Look how the ankle and shin are not blurry, meaning he is loading the hip and knee together and keeping the knee from pressing forward (into the boot).

Skiing10 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(wrong) The knees rotate in as he drops into or comes out of the squat.

Remember, It doesn’t matter how high you jump, because you are not actually training to jump. When you ski your ankle won’t be able to move, so focus much more on how your hip and knee behave. Make sure that your knees do not roll in when you jump up or land on the box. If they do, go back and practice your squat (that’s right, back to the top!).

Skiing11 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II    Skiing12 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

Being able to control how your knees and hips move together will help keep the hip active. When the hip is active the knee is more protected. Attempting to rotate from the knee (instead of the hip) loads ligaments (those bits holding your knee together). The same principles of squatting and jumping up apply here and the motion of your hip and knee should come together and be smooth.

Long Jump is a great way to practice stability and strength at varied tempos and levels of force

Sorry, no pictures (use your imagination). Taking off and landing like you are performing a squat with a band is critical and shows that you can control your hip under high loads and faster motions. Don’t let your knees roll in (A-frame) as it will cause your skis to be flat on the snow or worse yet on an inside edge.

Split Squat is an exercise to teach you to control the position of your knee and hip independently of each other. The same basics of knees out and not allowing your knee ahead of your toes apply here.

Skiing13 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

Start with one foot on a box and lower onto the standing foot

Skiing14 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

keep your standing knee behind your toes until you can’t control the position or your standing leg is parallel with the floor.

Skiing15 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(correct) Like squatting with a band, push your knee to the outside with the muscles in your hip.

Skiing16 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

(wrong) if your knee crosses your belly button you are lacking hip stability and are higher risk for a knee injury with skis on.

Try to perform this in front of a mirror to make sure your knee doesn’t go past your foot and that your knee doesn’t rotate in when you lower down.

Y-Balance using tape make a Y-shaped pattern with about 120 degrees between lines. Stand with one foot in the middle and reach out along those lines with your other foot without touching the floor or losing your balance.

Skiing17 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II Skiing18 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II Skiing19 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

Independent balance and control of your leg allows you to adjust your feet with the variable terrain of the ski slopes. It will also help you control your trunk position so that you do not get thrown into the back seat when landing jumps or skiing moguls. Repeat this exercise on both legs and measure distance reached to track progress. The less your knee rotates in and less you lean to the side the better (and safer) you’ll feel on the mountain.

Skier Lunges are similar to skater lunges but you can use different sized boxes to simulate different slope angles

Skiing20 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

Place two boxes of the same or slightly different heights 1-3 feet apart. The taller the box is the steeper the slope you are simulating.

Skiing21 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

Hop from side to side focused on keeping the width between your knees consistent, keeping your feet pointed forward and your pelvis level.

Skiing22 Skiing and Your knee: Don’t Blow It. Part II

Having your feet on two different surface heights should not change how your hips and knees work together.

Just like all of the other exercises, watch for knee and hip position and avoid an A-frame stance. You will find that at some point that by making the boxes taller you will be forced into some amount of A-frame. We recommend exercising with box heights that allow good positioning (no A frame) for this particular goal of knee protection on the slopes.

The Recap:

Use these exercises with a brief warm-up. These can also be used as a stand alone ski prep, if you are not doing other strength training.

Day 1: 3×10 reps of squats, box jumps up/down, and long jump after a warm-up with each set progressing in speed, box height, and jump distance until strict form cannot be maintained.Remember, form is everything with these exercises because we are not actually training to jump (in which care we might care about such things). We are training for skiing so work on getting it right so your knees will make it through the season.

Day 2: 3×10 reps of squats, split squat, Y-balance, and skier lunges after a warm-up with each set progressing … like day 1.

Day 3: skip it and repeat the exercises starting on day 4. It will take some time to get used to them and get your body used to the motions.

Skiing is really about turning to control your speed and direction. Skiing safely (at least when it comes to your knees) means using your hips and knees together to make sure that your knees don’t have to try to rotate. Practicing these simple movements will help your body know how to move. Different snow conditions, slope angles, ski types, and skiing styles require different amounts of these skills. If you are having trouble with any of them or if an injury is keeping you from being able to go out and enjoy the sport that you love, come see us. We are still in the Happy Valley Town Center, and are even on the way to the mountain from most parts of Portland. We always have coffee and time to talk through what is slowing you down. Happy trails!