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Height & Balance in Extreme/Freestyle Skiers

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hey Experts! I have a new student at my studio who is an extreme/freestyle skier. She has missed her chance to qualify for the Olympic team because of multiple surgeries. You name it, she's had it. Although she is obviously very strong, she is also extremely tall. As I worked with her, I noticed some balance issues that seemed to be related to height: i.e.: when performing lunges, she had difficulty keeping a quiet upper body. I'm not sure if she has the same issues on the slopes, but I thought I would pose the question her.

Have you noticed any height related balance issues in very tall skiers?
post #2 of 17
Hi LM! Long time, no chat!

I can't say I have really noticed that tall people have much more of an issue than anyone else. I tend to think of things like that the same way a 2-year-old would. "Good is good, Bad is bad".

I taught a group of 16 Taiwanese students in New Mexico once. They were all from the sports medicine program at Texas A+M. Most were involved in some form of University sports program and all had the athletic chops for skiing. There was one, named Hai, that was on the basketball team. He was huge! 6'11', and probably at least a metric ton. (Not fat at all. Twisted steel and cable.) My initial assessment of him was that he was going to have trouble becasue of his height and sheer size. Turned out after two hours he was turning and stopping on the run accessed by our beginner chair as well as or better than his peers.

I think with his sports background (and somewhat non-aggressive outlook), he was able to use an established body-awareness to achieve a very good dynamic balance. Once he had that, the rest was just repetition, in my opinion.

Spag
post #3 of 17
I'm 6'5'' so I speak from personal experience that height does influence balance. The way it affected me was that I skied very flexed most of the time, trying to be smaller/more compact and be closer to the ground than other people who were not as tall as me. Not to say that this problem is only that of the tall, but I always felt too far away from the action (ski/snow contact) with my height.

Just one thing to keep in mind and rule out if it is not in fact a problem with your student.



-nerd
post #4 of 17
I had a tall student who had some foot/ankle issues and it seemed like his height magnified the effects of his injuries. He was about 6'6" and had a fused ankle and some nerve damage on his foot from a mountaineering accident. He was a very strong skier and quite athletic but really struggled with fore-aft balance when he was balancing on his injured side. I've worked with quite a few skiers with fused ankles as well as below the knee amputees and he was definitely the most challenging. I can't help but think that his height had at least a little bit to do with it.

LisaMarie you know 1000 times more about this stuff than I do but I bet that if you figured out which injury (and resulting compensatory strength/weakness) was affecting your client's core issues the most and addressed them that the results will be great.
Have fun
post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisamarie View Post
Hey Experts! I have a new student at my studio who is an extreme/freestyle skier. She has missed her chance to qualify for the Olympic team because of multiple surgeries. You name it, she's had it. Although she is obviously very strong, she is also extremely tall. As I worked with her, I noticed some balance issues that seemed to be related to height: i.e.: when performing lunges, she had difficulty keeping a quiet upper body. I'm not sure if she has the same issues on the slopes, but I thought I would pose the question her.

Have you noticed any height related balance issues in very tall skiers?
Lisa, I'm only 6' tall but I am pretty big up top from weight lifting years ago and have pretty big shoulders. I have found that I have a pretty high center of mass compared to others and I can get knocked out of balance easier than some one who might be shorter and carry more of their weight down lower say in the belly, hips and thighs. So if she is top heavy especially in the shoulders that might be causing her to be knocked out of balance. I used to ride a horse and when my weight shifted i.e. upper body from front to back he would just take off, I think he thought it was a signal to gallop but I certainly didn't want that. A few inches fore or aft makes a huge difference where that weight is being transmitted to just as in skiing. So I would say look where the mass is and maybe start off with less deep lunges until she is more steady.
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone! What I seem to be dealing with is a chicken or the egg issue. Her core muscles are extremely weak, but I'm wondering if this comes from a lifetime of slouching, so as to not appear to be taller than all of the boys when she was growing up. As a ski instructor of extreme/freestyle classes, however she seems to be unusually injury prone. What I'm trying to do here is rule out any issues that may be related to height. Thanks again everyone!
post #7 of 17
LM,
Another thought for you. My wife is 5'11" and has some hip alignment issues that made skiing and especially tele skiing very difficult for her. She is a great snowboarder but struggled with skiing. For alpine skiing the problems were somewhat addressed by making her boots nearly reverse delta (5mm toe lifts by a bootfitter who isn't IMO on the current toe-jacking bandwagon) and removing a lot of their forward lean. Similar to your thoughts about your client she has slouchy posture. She stands with her hips forward and her torso slouched back. Her core strength is ok but in the gym lunges give her trouble. The result for her on snow before the change to her boots was being really aft no matter what which if she wasn't an occasional intermediate skier would probably make her more injury prone. The underlying issues sound similar she hasn't really addressed hers with a trainer since grad school is the priority right now. We are both really curious to hear what you come up with for your client.
Have fun
post #8 of 17
Hi Lisa--

I think that more important than actual height is the relative proportions of various body parts. (No, really, guys, I'm serious. Don't go there!)

Particularly long or short lower legs, femurs, or torso, relative to the rest of the body, can certainly affect balancing movements. None of these need be a real handicap, but proper equipment setup is critical.

Women in general often benefit even more than most men from having your equipment dialed in to perfection. With relatively longer femurs (typically), and more mass concentrated in the lower body (hips), forward shin angle is critical, because even small changes produce large effects. And with less mass in the upper body and arms, larger movements are required to compensate for fore-aft balance issues.

I know that you know these things, but I just thought I'd remind you to make sure to pay attention to these issues with your student. If there's any question, you know where to find Jeff Bergeron!

Best regards,
Bob
post #9 of 17
I would love to hear more about your theory LM. In my experience, it has only been an issue if there is recent growth, or disabilities caused by past injuries. Could it be that these injuries happened around the time of growth spurts?
Maybe her training regimine was incomplete. Which of course would be something you know so much more about.
post #10 of 17
LM, the other area that you might check (and to which I am particularly sensitive) is the size of her feet relative to her height. Smaller feet make it more difficult to balance (especially fore/aft), and smaller feet can also create different dynamics where feet and floor meet. The type of shoes and support that she uses can impact this, as well (see the recent article on the foot and its support in the Supporter Area Premium Articles for a lot more on this).

I don't presume to be able to add anything to Bob's observations, but I will second them. The relative lengths of the various body parts and the mass of the different muscle clusters will all make a difference. You know the impact of a weak core, so I won't even try to go there!

Lastly, as most of us know, balance starts in the inner ears. Any issues there?

Remember the slow walk...
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
This is all really interesting. Just to note, I'm sure that I have a theory yet. I'm just sort of bouncing around some ideas. However, based on the great responses here, it's leading to more questions, such as foot size, inner ear issues, body proportions, etc.

There's a bit more background I can devulge without invading her privacy. She went to the same ski academy as Bode, and was actually there at the same time that he was. This leads me to believe to have some basic talents as a skier, but I wonder if her first surgery-requiring injury happened as an adolescent, or during a growth spurt, as was mentioned.

Like I said, she does instruct a women's extreme skiing group, so we are not talking about an intermediate skier. Her strength seems to be greater than her balance. For example, even with multiple surgeries on both knees, she can lunge very low, but she cannot do so without slouching forward in her upper body.

I wish that we could get Bob Barnes out with his video camera to do some MA. It would be interesting to compare what she does on the slopes with what I'm seeing in class.
post #12 of 17
I've personally only noticed height issues in beginers and intermediates (strugling with fore-aft and excessive bending at the waist and slouching) and typically these problems can be worked out over time. However, to me, its seemed to be an issue with the strength to height ratio and improper equiptment. From what I've seen, taller people needed to be a little stronger in the core and other major muscle groups (i.e. legs) in order to compensate for the higher center of mass (just think of a lever and how the length of the lever dictates the amount of force to lift/move).

Furthermore, for your student, I would look into the injuries that have happened and the circumstances that surounded them. I'm wondering if the injuries might give some insite into more hidden issues of strength/learned compensation. Either way, I'm sure that your student is confident enough and capable to fix/correct the issues, and hopefully they might even lead to lessening the impact of former injuries and possibly minimize any further injuries.
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisamarie View Post
This is all really interesting. Just to note, I'm sure that I have a theory yet. I'm just sort of bouncing around some ideas. However, based on the great responses here, it's leading to more questions, such as foot size, inner ear issues, body proportions, etc.

There's a bit more background I can devulge without invading her privacy. She went to the same ski academy as Bode, and was actually there at the same time that he was. This leads me to believe to have some basic talents as a skier, but I wonder if her first surgery-requiring injury happened as an adolescent, or during a growth spurt, as was mentioned.

Like I said, she does instruct a women's extreme skiing group, so we are not talking about an intermediate skier. Her strength seems to be greater than her balance. For example, even with multiple surgeries on both knees, she can lunge very low, but she cannot do so without slouching forward in her upper body.

I wish that we could get Bob Barnes out with his video camera to do some MA. It would be interesting to compare what she does on the slopes with what I'm seeing in class.

LM, Just a thought but that line about multiple knee surguries got me thinking about if there is any amount of pain and lunges would have it in the deep knee bend be it from scar tissue, tendons and nerves never getting back to 100% etc., she might be subconciously getting ready to take the hit of pain by slouching forward. Maybe it is to take some of the weight off the knees . We all have some defense mechanism when we know we are about to get a shot of pain through any movement that consistently gives us this pain, we also adapt our range of movements to accomandate the pain we live with. Oh to have the body of a child that can bend and twist and pop right back into posistion.
post #14 of 17
LM,

Search out some basketball expertise in this area. I can remember commentator observations about George Muresan for the then Washington Bullets about how extremely tall men (> 7 foot) in the sport inherently suffered various injuries due to their height.
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post
LM,

Search out some basketball expertise in this area. I can remember commentator observations about George Muresan for the then Washington Bullets about how extremely tall men (> 7 foot) in the sport inherently suffered various injuries due to their height.
Doesn't that type of injury (height related joint issues) sometimes occur because of the length of the tendons/ligaments, basically saying they're weaker because they are longer/more streached?
post #16 of 17
I don't know. But I do remember that Gheorghe suffered from some pretty bizarre and frequent injuries.
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
I told my student about this thread, and she was impressed. Hopefully she will join in. Maeve (she gave me permission to tell her name) is on the Freestyle Circuit. When she gets a chance, she will post some videos.

That being said, she did have an accident as a kid that involved falling on an ear, so thumbs up to anyone who said she may have inner ear damage that is affecting her balance.

I had also noticed that her ribs protude slightly forward. Although this porture is popular for gymnasts, it can throw a skier out of alignment. I aksed if she had gymnastic training as a child. I was correct.

Although how feet are not tiny for her height, they are somewhat smaller than you would expect them to be. She also confesses to slouching when she was growing up so she would not over power the boys!

Hopefully she'll post some videos !
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