During the winter sports season, I always notice an increasing number of knee injuries coming into my clinic. Skiing in particular places you in a unique situation where your foot is bound to a long lever arm with two edges. Because you’re also traveling downhill and paired with unpredictable terrain, this can lead to catastrophic injuries.
Among the most common and troublesome of these are ACL injuries: The ACL is responsible for being the primary restraint to the anterior translation of the lower leg both when the knee is slightly bent and when it is straight. This puts it at risk during the majority of skiing activities.
Here are some of my favorite exercises to prepare your knees to handle the slopes this winter.
In order to help protect the ACL, squats will provide hip and quad strength to help support the knee throughout its range of motion. This can be performed with just body weight, as shown or if you’re feeling good, we can add some weights. But be sure to nail your form before you load it.
The deadlift is a great way to make sure that your glutes are strong and controlled throughout your full range. Additionally it’s a good way to reinforce that your spine is able to maintain neutral positioning with the help of your abdominal musculature and erector spinae muscles.
This one of my favorites. It’s a great way to target the quads and glutes, providing dynamic strength and stability to the knee joint.
Because of where the hamstrings attach on the lower leg, they’re well positioned to aid the ACL in preventing the translation of the lower leg. By strengthening the hamstrings, you’re providing improved stability to the knee.
Core strength is very important to maintaining control throughout the kinetic chain. Planks will help provide the base for your torso to be in control when you are on the mountain (or bunny hill).
As always, if you’re worried about your preparedness to hit the slopes this winter, consult an expert. We can help you develop a plan to enjoy all your winter sports safely.