Skiing Injuries

One of the reasons that my wife and I relocated to Whistler was to increase our time in the mountains in the winter. I have been a keen skier since the age of 14, and Caroline my wife has skied since we got married in 2003 when she was given the ultimatum that once we were married we’d be going on a ski trip every year whether she liked it or not. Fortunately she taken to it and is now pushing me to my limits. We both enjoy alpine skiing and are developing a love for the back country.

Alex in hospital with a broken leg, and Alex giving a treatment on the spearhead traverse

I appreciate what it is like to be out of action after snapping my right lower leg in half after hitting a tree in Jackson Hole in February 2009. As a skier I have benefitted from osteopathy as it has helped me to recover from a variety of injuries that I have sustained over the years. Osteopathy has also helped me to get fitter prior to my skiing holidays as osteopathic manual therapy has helped to free up restrictions in tight muscles and stiff joints. As an osteopathic practitioner I’m always a popular person to have on a trip and have carried out informal osteopathic consultations in bars, hotels and restaurants from the Powder Keg in Ohakun, New Zealand; Le Rond Point in Meribel, France; to Jimmy’s in Aspen, and on the Spearhead Traverse!

Osteopathy and Skiing injuries

The most common skiing injuries affect the knee joint and these usually involve the medial collateral ligament which stabilises the medial border of the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament or the cartilage. Most ski injuries to the knee are ligamentous and they usually occur when we fall backwards in a twisting motion.

Most of us will also sustain a number of bumps and bruises over the course of our trip as we fall and injure ourselves.

Shoulder injuries are also common and usually result from a fall onto an outstretched hand, directly onto the shoulder or an arm being dragged behind as we slide down the slope following a crash. One of the most common shoulder injuries and perhaps the most painful is a dislocated shoulder (believe me it’s no fun as I found out on a CAT skiing day in Aspen 2006), followed by acromio-clavicular subluxations, and fractures to the humerus or clavicle. Thumbs are also commonly injured when our ski poles fail to release when we fall.

Head injuries can also occur when we fall from mild bumps to concussions, to more serious life threatening injuries depending on the speed of the accident, the object hit and area of the skull damaged.

Any injury sustained on the mountain should be examined by a medical professional as soon as possible to exclude the possibility of serious injury. An anterior cruciate ligament injury for example will usually require surgical repair if a skier wishes to return to a high level of activity. With head injuries where there has been a possible loss of consciousness a patient should be monitored for any signs of brain injury and is definitely advised to forgo any alcohol that evening.

With sprains and strains, knocks and bumps I recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, icing, compression, elevation and rest. (NICER) It’s also probably best to avoid a relaxing soak in the hot tub as this may increase the inflammation.

Osteopathy and Knee Injuries

Once an injury has been diagnosed osteopathy can be an appropriate therapy to help with a successful recovery. Osteopathy can help knee injuries such as medial collateral ligament strains and cartilage injuries by localized soft tissue treatments to the knee joint and by improving the compensatory mechanisms of surrounding joints such as the foot, ankle and hip to take away strain from the injured joint. As an osteopathic practitioner I can also advise on appropriate strengthening and stretching exercises for surrounding tissues.

Prior to a trip osteopathy can be beneficial to improve the function of surrounding musculature of the knee such as the hamstrings and quadriceps. Deep soft tissue techniques can also help to breakdown scar tissue in old injuries to the lower extremity.

Osteopathy and Shoulder Injuries

Most shoulder injuries require the arm to be supported in a sling for a period of time. This can lead to a joint becoming stiff and restricted. Osteopathic mobilization can help to prevent further injury and joint restrictions. For example when a shoulder dislocates there is often serious derangement of the rotator cuff muscles surrounding the joint leading to instability, deep soft tissue techniques can help to restore function along with specific strengthening exercises.

Osteopathy and Head Injuries

Following a head injury we can often sustain whiplash type injuries to the cervical and thoracic spine which can lead to pain and discomfort for a long time after the injury if they are not treated rapidly. Osteopathic treatment can help to reduce tension and restriction into the musculature of the cervical and thoracic spine using gentle soft tissue techniques. Osteopathy can improve the range of movement and mobility of restricted joints using manipulation and articulation. Osteopathy can also help to relieve headaches that can be associated with head injuries.

As an osteopathic practitioner I would always recommend that you wear a helmet when you ski as this may reduce the risk of head injury. Anecdotal evidence would seem to suggest that this would be the case and I would recommend reading about Sam Bass in the October 2008 issue of Skiing Magazine if you’re not sure.

In conclusion I sincerely hope not to see you as a result of a skiing injury. (It’s much nicer to chat about what a great day you’re having on a lift) But should you sustain an injury osteopathy is a safe, effective treatment that will help get you back on the hill or prepare you for your next trip. If you require more details on skiing injuries I recommend www.ski-injury.com.