By: Dr. Andre Benzer, PT, DPT, CSCS

The winter can be a tough time of year to deal with considering colder temperatures, less daylight hours, more work anxiety and other factors. However, it is also a time of year in which many choose to brighten up their weekends with two of America’s favorite pastimes: Skiing and snowboarding!

While these winter sports can be very fun and great workouts, it is important to understand the associated concerns and risks of injury that come with indulging in these sports. While beginners can be put at a higher risk of injuring themselves while hitting the slopes, it is very possible for even the most seasoned of skiers or snowboarders to suffer injuries. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common types of skiing injuries:

Knee injuries: These are some of the most common types of ski injuries and can include sprains, strains, and tears of the ligaments and tendons in the knee.

Head injuries: While head injuries are less common than knee injuries, they also occur and can be very problematic if left untreated. Some common head injuries include concussions, skull fractures, and other types of head trauma.

Wrist injuries: Falling onto an outstretched hand when losing your balance can lead to sprains of ligaments, bones fractures, and potentially dislocations in the wrist.

Ankle injuries: Similar to wrist injuries, these can occur from traumatic falls and will include sprains, fractures, and dislocations.

Shoulder injuries: These can occur from falls and from overuse and include sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures. One of the most common types of shoulder injuries seen on the slopes is acromioclavicular (AC) joint separations due to falling directly on the shoulder.

Back injuries: Back injuries can be caused by a number of different factors but most commonly are the result of falls or overuse. They can manifest in the form of irritating muscle strains, spinal fractures and potentially disc herniations.

Hypothermia and frostbite: Cold-related injuries can occur if the athlete is not properly dressed for the weather conditions. Proper layering is key whenever you head out to the mountain

Always make sure to take note of appropriate safety measures and to be aware of your own physical limits while skiing to reduce the risk of injury. Don’t push yourself just to keep up with your friends or family! It is also important to be mindful of wearing appropriate safety gear and to make sure that you seek medical attention if you suspect an injury. Almost all mountains have trained medical personnel on staff that can assist when needed!

You are now probably thinking to yourself “Wow. I never realized how dangerous and scary skiing and snowboarding is!”. Just to reiterate, these are generally worst case scenarios and with careful progression of intensity over time and making sure your body is fit for the task, you can greatly reduce your risk for injury.

“But Andre, I have no idea what to do in the gym to train for skiing or snowboarding!” Let’s dive a little bit deeper into what you can do in the gym or at home to make sure you make it back from the mountain in one piece:

Squats: This exercise helps to strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, which are all important muscles for skiing.

Lunges: Lunges help to strengthen the thigh and calf muscles, which are important for maintaining balance and control while flying down the slopes on your skis or snowboard.

Calf raises: Calf raises help to strengthen the muscles in the lower leg, which are important for skiing and snowboarding as they help to absorb shock as you land from any bunny hops while making it easier to maintain balance.

Planks: Planks help to strengthen the core muscles, which are important for maintaining good postural control and trunk stability on the slopes.

Leg press: Similar to squats, this exercise is great for strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, which are all important muscle groups for skiing.

Balance exercises: such as single-leg stands and unstable surface training can also be beneficial for improving balance and proprioception. Training your balance on unstable surfaces such as foam balance pads or BOSU balls are a great way to recreate the dynamic mountain environment in a controlled manner.

And lastly, always remember that it is very important to consult with your physician or physical therapist before starting any new sport or exercise program as they will help guide you through a proper program that suits your specific needs and goals while taking into account any pre-existing conditions that you may have.