Q: I had knee surgery a year ago and want to hit the ski slopes this winter. What should I do to prepare?
A: Knee injuries are a common concern for skiers. I saw a statistic recently that says 25 percent of all ski injuries are related to the knee so your trepidation is warranted. The first thing you need to do before hitting the slopes after knee surgery is consult with your physician or physical therapist. They have insight into your particular injury and can provide you with specific information if hitting the slopes again is safe.
Do not wear a brace when skiing; there’s no evidence it does anything good for the knee. You – and other skiers – hitting the slopes should keep these tips in mind to keep your knees healthy:
- If you are falling, try to keep your knees flexed instead of staying straight. A straight leg provides a longer lever force against the knee during a fall.
- If you’re falling, don’t try to stop; just go with the flow. You can’t predict which way the leg is going to twist.
- Try to fall forward. Falling backwards places too much stress across the ACL.
- Don’t jump when skiing unless you know where and how to land. When you do jump, land on both skis and keep your knees flexed.
Even before hitting the slopes, there’s something else you can do to help your knees stay healthy – strength training. Building up the muscles in your upper legs, especially the inner and outer thighs, will provide more support to the muscles surrounding the knee. You can ask your physical therapist or a trainer at your fitness center about specific exercises to build up strength in those areas, including leg presses, leg curls or a machine that can help build up inner and outer thigh strength.
With proper preparation, you – and your knee – will be ready to hit the slopes again this winter.
By Dr. Todd Smith, orthopedic surgeon and skier, ThedaCare Orthopedics Plus, Appleton.