Knees are by far the most common area for injury on the mountain and a knee injury can not only ruin your trip, but can end your season. Thankfully, there are some simple things to keep in mind when setting up your equipment to help decrease your chance of a knee injury. Firstly you need to understand that there are two types of injuries, acute and overuse.
Acute injuries can be caused from your own mistakes, such as losing control on a run, or from things outside of your control, like a rogue snowboarder taking you out. In the knee in particular, there are a lot of structures that can be damaged acutely. In skiing and snowboarding, the structures most at risk in the knee are the ligaments (MCL/ACL) and meniscus. As your foot is fixed to the ski or board, these structures are often damaged when there is a large rotation force through the body that causes them to tear.
Overuse injuries build up over time. They often start as a niggle and gradually increase in intensity and can limit your ability to keep skiing or boarding. With overuse injuries it’s often the muscles and tendons that support the knee that get overload, often from lack of strength and control.
So how do we prevent some if these injuries from happening? Well first we need to look at the things we can easily control and set-up of equipment is the best starting point.
EQUIPMENT SET UP TIPS
Making sure your skis or board are the right size so that you can control it efficiently is key. If it/they are too long or wide for your height or skill level, you will use poor technique, get fatigued sooner and put yourself at higher risk of falling or overloading your muscles and tendons.
Making sure your bindings are on the right setting to match your skill level is particularly important in preventing acute knee injuries. For beginners, you want the ski’s to pop off more readily if you fall so that as previously mentioned you are at less risk of twisting the knee ligaments with your foot stuck in the ski. Then conversely, if you are an advanced skier you need the bindings set tight enough so they don’t just pop off if you hit a bump at speed. So when hiring or buying, don’t rush the process and read and fill out any forms honestly and accurately, because the staff at Hotham Sports are not going to judge your weight or ability, they are asking because they want to keep you safe!
Your knees take a lot of the load, so to prevent overuse injuries getting the binding position set-up right is key. The recommended position will vary for each individual as, for example, some people have tighter hips or ankles. If you tend to naturally squat with your knees together, then it is best to keep the angle fairly straight, whereas if you tend to squat with your knees out, then you are better to widen the angle. It may take a few goes to get the position right and as a general rule, if you are feeling pain on the outer part of your knee when riding you may have too much angle and if you feel pain on the inner part you may not have enough.
The other keys to injury prevention involve adequate strength and conditioning (check out my previous article on my Top 5 Exercises Before You Visit article) as well as using correct technique. Teaching your brain the best way to move to maximise the ability of the joints, tendons, and muscles is pivotal, so speak to the guys at Hotham Ski & Ride School today about booking a lesson and get your technique sorted.