With winter just around the corner, my thoughts and the thoughts of many fitness and recreation enthusiasts turn to that of snow-sports; aka sliding down the hill on pieces of wood and metal, sometimes in control, more often without much at all.
Having moved to Canada some years ago from the UK to chase the snow as a professional ski instructor in British Columbia and Alberta, I want to touch on the one specific fitness issue that I've seen have a great impact in my career: the ACL!
Sadly, during the life of a recreational skier ACL tears are all too common. They cause prolonged absence from on-hill activities, can have a detrimental effect on our working lives off hill, and all together suck more than the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Getting my knowledge of Canadian sports in early eh.)
What does an ACL tear feel like? Bloody painful. That is all. Thats not good...What can I do to stay injury free?
ACL protection should be part of every snowboarder and skier’s pre season training program. It's not possible to strengthen the ACL itself, as ligaments do not grow stronger or larger, however it is possible to make improvements in the overall stability of the muscle groups around the core, and the knee joint itself.
How to Protect your ACL
Introduce correct knee alignment. If you have excessive Knee Valgus (an overly large amount of internal hip rotation and hip abduction when squatting) you may have some issues. Knee Valgus can contribute to ACL injury due to the inward-rotated position. This places high amounts of unwanted and possibly injury creating stress on the ACL – there's a photo of that guy from the Canucks showing Knee Valgus on the right. You can find out more about knee valgus and some ways to improve and what may in fact be causing it from Bret Contreras informative blog here.
Skiers & snowboarders will often have much larger quadriceps compared to their hamstrings. When the Quadricep is contracting, the hamstrings are relaxing, allowing movement, however if they are weak and /or tight they may not protect the ACL from injury during a particularly strong quadriceps contraction. Snow sports enthusiasts should try to work on dynamic balance with stability and strength training to effectively prepare the knees for an injury-free winter season. Looking at training both front and back of the leg in proportion. So what do we do? Break out the bosu? Do squats on a Swiss Ball? Try some of these?:
Highly entertaining, but I'm unsure of the practicality. Instead I would suggest Bamboo Squats:
Shown here by Dean Somerset
Why do movements on unstable ground where injury could be greater, instead use unstable weight? This can be adapted into dead-lifts:
This will hammer the hamstrings and glutes and let's be honest not everyone has a horse lying around.
Get hardCORE- Snowpsorts are dynamic and active sports, they require the body to move around all three planes of motion. Core training routines - that work both the internal and external core muscles can help us protect against ACL injury. Coming off Dean's post rehab course, last month I found a new love for deadbugs and a realisation that not everything core needs to be done with a stability ball, no matter how cool it looks!
Why not try instead, some of these deadbug variations, trust me, risk of injury is much lower, and probability of improvement is much higher. Even if you might not look as cool.
I hope some of this insight can help you all make it through this winter season injury free and a little more aware of what you can do to keep yourself that way. If you have any questions you can reach me via email which is located below. Have a wonderful winter wherever you are and stay healthy!
About the Author:
Roland Searle is a proudly British Personal Trainer at World Health City Centre in Edmonton and is a full time examiner and trainer for the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA). He is partial to Earl Grey Tea.
He holds the highest certification attainable in Canada and has coached National Team Athletes, helped Television personalities with their snowplough turns and has an all round love for everything winter. You can ski with him privately this winter in Banff, at any of the three world class resorts head to www.skibig3.com to find more information about his winter home and how to book.