Injury Prevention in Alpine Skiing
Alpine skiing involves high speeds on variable terrain and snow conditions. Skiers must have sufficient physical fitness to tolerate large impact forces they encounter with every turn. One must possess not only sufficient lower body strength and endurance, but also high levels of agility and postural stability.
This post will focus on how Agility and Postural Stability relate to skiing performance and injury prevention. I will highlight two specific tests that can also be used as exercises to help get you ready for a healthy ski season.
Agility is the “ready ability to move with quick, easy grace.” It is a critical component in alpine skiing. Increased agility directly correlates to increased efficiency with getting in and out of turns.
Athletes that demonstrate elite agility have shorter ground contact times. This is directly relevant to alpine skiing, our Northern Virginia sports physical therapist explains, since a longer ground contact time is associated with increased knee loading, which is a risk factor for knee injury. A fantastic test to measure agility is the Hexagon Agility Test depicted in the video.
The hexagon test requires multilateral jumps to six different positions, which requires a COD task and is similar to the alpine skiing technique.
Looking Beyond Muscular Strength and Endurance
Studies have shown that individuals who have faster times on this agility test have a significantly decreased likelihood of knee injury. Agility training should be a staple in your preparation for a successful season!
(The length of each side should be 24 inches (60.5 cm), and each angle should work out to be 120 degrees.)
Skiers must have the ability to stabilize in a bent knee position and shift their body weight frequently to initiate and execute turns. Thus, our sensory-motor system allows us to achieve steep and dangerous inward-leaning angles when we are carving in the snow!
Skiers often encounter unexpected disturbances due to various conditions that can result in falls and injuries. Therefore, it is crucial to have a keen sense of lateral and forward-backward balance to prevent injury like the positions skiers assume when they are about to fall.
The Y-Balance test is a great test that can also be used as an exercise to improve postural stability. Skiers are often off-balanced on one ski when a fall is imminent, which makes these movements specific for alpine skiing. Research has shown the Y-Balance score is very informative in ski injury prediction.
(The angles between the anterior line and the 2 posterior lines should be 135 degrees.)