Before you venture out on a ski slope, check your fitness

Before you venture out on a ski slope, check your fitness

With the winter season in full swing, many Poles have been bitten by the skiing bug. As many as 30 per cent of them declare to be able to ski, while 11 per cent say they put on their skis and go skiing at least once a year[1]. However, it should be borne in mind that skills and experience do not fully protect us against accidents, which are not uncommon in the winter season every year. Therefore, before venturing out on a slope, it is worth thinking about how to take care of your safety. Surely, many skiing enthusiasts have already prepared their skiing equipment, but have they also taken care of proper training to get their body ready for the upcoming effort?

The ‘safety first’ approach, or how to prepare ourselves before skiing

Almost everybody is aware of the fact that safety on a ski slope is the first priority. However, it is important to remember that our safety is influenced by a number of factors, such as appropriate behaviour on a slope, wearing a helmet and adequate equipment which is best suited to our individual needs, the choice of proper sportswear to protect us from external factors as well as to keep warmth, comfort and ease of movement required on a slope. Is it enough, however?

Unfortunately, there are still many winter sport enthusiasts who forget about the importance of preparing their own body for the skiing madness. As emphasised by experts, good fitness and muscle function will make it possible for us to fully enjoy the winter season, hence the importance of proper preparation. How should we get ready before our skiing adventure on a slope and when would it be advisable to begin working on our fitness?

How early we should begin our preparations depends on a number of factors, but primarily on our lifestyle. If we lead a sedentary lifestyle and our body is not used to physical effort, we should begin training even as early as three months before the planned trip. It is then recommended to start with light training activities to warm up our joints, strengthen our muscles and improve our efficiency. Jogging, fitness and cycling are perfect to achieve this. On the other hand, if we lead a fairly active lifestyle, we should begin regular training one month before our trip. Particular attention should be paid to knee and ankle joints as well as to lower limb muscles, since they are at the greatest risk of injuries.

Robert Jopowicz, a physician, specialist in Orthopaedics and Traumatology of the Locomotor System from the Rehasport Clinic at the Medicover Hospital

Fitness supervised by specialists 

However, it is not always easy to determine the fitness level of our body. Therefore, in order to avoid guessing how fit our joints and muscles are and which parts of our body should receive the most attention, we can benefit from the services of specialists who will tell us what we should work on.

We would like to encourage our patients to undergo an additional examination before they go skiing or snowboarding in order to see how ready their body is to withstand the increased effort. Such an examination consists of four parts, namely a detailed medical history with the patient in order to find out more about his or her lifestyle, whether he or she is physically active or has ever sustained any injuries or serious traumas. The next step involves checking muscle strength and endurance, which is followed by measuring the degree of joint mobility. The last part of the examination includes the assessment of leg work while doing exercise that simulates the skiing/snowboarding activities. After the examination, each patient receives a detailed report containing a summary and the result analysis. Moreover, based on the results obtained, we can create an individual training programme for our patients to help them get ready for their long‑awaited skiing adventure.

Robert Jopowicz, a physician, specialist in Orthopaedics and  Traumatology of the Locomotor System from the Rehasport Clinic at the  Medicover Hospital

Is preparatory training alone sufficient?

No, it isn’t. When we reach the slope, we are often too excited and thrilled to remember to properly warm-up. However, it should be kept in mind that properly preparing the body for physical effort can significantly reduce the risk of injuries, but also makes it possible to get more pleasure and satisfaction out of skiing. It is unfortunately true that most of us neglect the warm-up stage and it is not a common sight to see people doing physical exercise before sliding down the slope.

Remember to warm up your trunk, back and arm muscles, but pay particular attention to warming up all the parts of your legs and joints. The exercise dedicated to a given part of our muscles should imitate their work during skiing.

Robert Jopowicz, a physician, specialist in Orthopaedics and   Traumatology of the Locomotor System from the Rehasport Clinic at the   Medicover Hospital

What should we do in case of injuries?

Individual motoric preparation is the best preventive measure against injuries and traumas. However, it goes without saying that not all injuries can be avoided. Therefore, if we do sustain an injury, we should know what to do, where to seek help and what the most important steps are.

Immediately after sustaining an injury, we should reduce the physical strain on the affected limb. Cooling the injured area, using for example an ice pack, will reduce pain and swelling. It is best to cool the area down through a thin material every 2-3 hours for 15-20 minutes, rather than apply the ice pack directly to the skin. Where possible, it is important to immobilise the affected limb and definitely consult an orthopaedist. Recent years have seen a major progress in the field of orthopaedics dealing with sports injuries, particularly in the development of arthroscopic minimally invasive surgical techniques. After an injury to the knee joint, it is advisable to quickly undergo relevant diagnostics, because in the case of certain new methods of treatment (such as the cruciate ligament repair with internal bracing) the quicker the intervention, the better.

Robert Jopowicz, a physician, specialist in Orthopaedics and    Traumatology of the Locomotor System from the Rehasport Clinic at the    Medicover Hospital

Remember that winter sports are the ones that carry the greatest risk of injuries, and hence the importance of good efficiency and fitness, movement control and coordination. The injuries we can sustain on a slope often lead to serious complications that we struggle with for many months or even years to come. Therefore, we should not ignore adequate preparation and exercise caution and safety on the slope.
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