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Please help me out! (getting beginner back on skis after ACL tear)

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I'd welcome advice from the Bears on this.

My girlfriend has had the mother of bad luck when she took up skiing last season - she tore her ACL on her fourth day out (1st of January, sunny day, flat run...shouldn't have happened but it did).

She had her knee reconstructed last May, did a lot of PT and is just about back to normal strength now.

She is an active, outdoor person (more mountain trekking and hiking than me to date). She had enjoyed her first days on skis and was doing rather well up to the accident. She's intent on trying skiing again - but rather wary of doing it this season.

We are going soon for a week in the Alps. I am NOT going to pressure her into trying skiing now. However, if she decides on her own that she wants to give it a go, even for just a day or two, what tips would you give her? (and what tips would you give me for supporting her?).

post #2 of 14
I too tore my ACL on my 4th day ever skiing (on terrain I should not have been on with bindings that had not been checked).

I rehabbed hard with the intent of skiing again. I did wear a brace (a Townsend derotation brace) for mental peace of mind that whole first season. Once I fell for the first time and got back up with no injury, my mental rehab was complete.
post #3 of 14
Originally posted by Midwestskier:
Once I fell for the first time and got back up with no injury, my mental rehab was complete.
I think that's the key.

I had ACL surgery last May also and started this season in November of last year.

I wasn't nervous but I was babying my knee by skiing defensively and cautiously until I wiped out and then I was OK.

I think I have fallen more this year then the past 2 years combined.
post #4 of 14

The same thing happened to my then girlfriend now wife on the first morning of a week long trip at Steamboat last February.

She has gone skiing around 15 times this year with mixed success. While she was pretty free and easy not to mention out of control last year, she has, for the most part, been extremely cautious and defensive this year.

The best thing I did was to arrange regular lessons with our own Arcmeister. He was patient and quite helpful, and pointed her in the right direction with her equipment and gave her strategies for dealing with a larger mountain than what is available here in Wisconsin.

Her big fear was being on the big hills out west and crowds. We had good runs at Kicking Horse and an extreme meltdown at Lake Louise. At Vail I was more proactive, not in skiings tips but scouting out the right runs for her. Easy terrain, short lift lines and sunny days. She skied 4 out of 7 days and enjoyed each day more than the previous. To avoid the huge human traffic jams at the end of the day, we just rode the lifts down. By the way, it's really hard to gauge terrain through the eyes of someone else. Easy cattracks and short steep hills would never give me a second thought. That is until I went down a few with my wife and saw the traumatic effect they had on her.

By the end of the trip, she had skied the back bowls, again after I scouted out the easiest and lowest traffic areas.

She has made progress, now skiing more in control and at times not defensively.

Since she had such little time on the slopes before her accident, the first fall didn't have the same curing effect that the other posters above felt and it will be a long process.

So my tips would be:

1. Get her lessons from a sensitive instructor.

2. Don't push her; be patient.

3. Scout out the runs. Don't take another's word for how easy a run is. A great time to practice on the basics.

4. To give you and her a break, let her spend a some of the lift ticket fees for a spa day or the like.

And, if she has a meltdown like my dear wife, pick up her skis, lead her on a hike to the nearest lift and take a ride down. Follow that with a healthy dose of alcohol. Of course, the next day, take a ski day for yourself.

Not as upbeat as the foregoing posts, but I did have my best ski year.

Good luck!

post #5 of 14
Lots of good advice here!

I fell on a flat run at Whistler on Day 18 of my ski life, and was on crutches for 4 weeks. The accident happened on a Saturday because it was crowded, and I was nervous.

Lessons with someone good are a great idea. Staying in very gentle terrain initially is also a good idea.

If you have any options about where to ski, try and select a resort that doesn't have crowds. This sounds silly, but if you can find a snowboarder-free place, that would be even better. It's a sad demographic fact that many people who choose to board are not considerate of others on the slopes right now. I know several new skiers who tense if they hear that scraping board noise coming behind them.

The crowd thing is particularly important because of the Beginners' Paradox --- the easy slopes are *filled* with people who cannot ski. It was the biggest relief of my life when I could get OFF the beginners' hills in Ontario. But you need the gentle terrain to get the skills to learn to avoid the bad skiers.

Spa day -- fabulous idea! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #6 of 14

Vermont Ski Safety has some wonderful information on ACL injuries and how to prevent them.

Check out this link for how to help prevent knee injuries

Reading this may help her feel better about the possibility of reinjuring her knee.
post #7 of 14

I think your girlfriend should try using a brace. I used to ski with bilateral anti-rotation braces (Townsend on right leg, BREG on left leg) for peace of mind. Heck, I even called post-ACL folks foolish for not using them as part of the rehab. But then I learned that many people have much stronger mental sides (or much greater abilities to cancel the memories of injury). So 2 seasons ago, I stopped wearing the braces and just decided to ski free, as it were. I never looked back.

To me, wearing a brace is a valid mental crutch... if you're the type of person who's haunted by injury memories and a strong desire to avoid future injury.

But in the end, there's no substitute for physical fitness and muscular strength.
post #8 of 14
Her knee should be fully grafted by now and if she rehabbed hard like you said, she should be fine pysically.

How excited is she about skiing again?

For me the thought of skiing again is what drove me to rehab so hard and get back in shape. In her case she may not have that drive as she is still a beginner.

It's all good advice but it still depends on your girlfriend's attitude and frame of mind.
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Everyone - many thanks for the thoughtful and useful replies. I plan to show this thread to her so keep them coming! Of course the decision is hers - but whenever she is driven to ski again, this will all be helpful advice.
post #10 of 14
Cedric, it's too bad that she couldn't have come to ESA -- honestly, I think the best and brightest thing that could have happened was to have Ydnar or another great instructor get her on the right track. Just ask Cathy. [img]smile.gif[/img] Oh well. Hope you have fun.
post #11 of 14
To add to Gonzo's post.

I also agree that braces are not neccessary and can be worse then not wearing one at all. A brace stabalizes the knee and will make the surrounding muscles weaker as a result.

The knee will not be as strong without the brace and you are prone to an injury when not wearing it. This makes you rely on the brace and doesn't stop you from slipping on ice on the way to the store and screwing your knee up again.

I had many Ortho doctors and rehab specialists tell me to not wear my knee brace because of this.

I haven't worn one at all while skiing this year.
post #12 of 14
I would give a lot of thought and energy into the proper equipment.

A good fitting boot with possibly a footbed along with the proper ski, probably a bit shorter than "the book" calls for. If she is fighting the equipment because the boots don't fit or the skis are too long she will burn out and become more prone to an accident. Keeping her balanced and turning easy can't hurt.
post #13 of 14
Scalce, I agree with your post, but would add that you are probably one of those folks who isn't hampered by an overactive imagination and a strong memory of the ACL tear... my leg muscles were plenty strong when I returned to skiing in 2000 after my left ACL recon in 1999. My orthopod told me I was clear to ski w/o brace, as I was completely stable and muscularly fit. But for me, the mental side was hard -- I couldn't rely on the new ACL without some mental confirmation that the knee isn't going to blow out again ASAP. I know that derotation braces aren't miracle cures, but neither are they bad IF you are keeping your muscles strong and your flexibility high. If you are lazy, though, the brace can become a crutch and cause your muscles to play a lesser role in joint stability. This is why most orthopods don't like 'em -- most patients are lazy, and begin to rely on the brace rather than physical fitness and strength.
post #14 of 14
I think I was really driven which helped.

It was a long and well thought out decision to ski without the brace.

I still cringe when I think of the exact moment my knee blew out though.

I also sliced my side open with my ski and was bleeding all over the mountain so it was slightly traumatic. I was OK but my wife was kind of freaking out because it took awhile to get someone to me. It was too steep. soft, and bumpy for a snowmobile to get up and the patroller was a petite older woman who was very squemish at the sight of blood and another younger girl who had some issues getting me down on the sled. Thankfully my wife and friend were there to help steady the sled and get me on it.

Getting stapled back up and missing the rest of the season was the worst part.

Also soft bottom sleds hurt on bumps runs.
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