Six key tips to prevent a knee injury while skiing

By Mr Adil Ajuied
Consultant orthopaedic knee surgeon at London Bridge Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK

Knee injuries are one the most common traumas to occur whilst skiing. The knees bear the brunt of the body’s weight and are extremely vulnerable when on skis. Changes in the snow conditions, binding release failure, or falling in an awkward manner, can all cause the knee to twist, ligaments and tendons to tear and in the most severe circumstances the joint to dislocate and bones to break. 

Most common knee injuries in skiing

The most common knee injury on the slopes is the medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear which is often torn when skiers fall or overstrain in the ‘snowplough’ position (when the ski tips are pointed towards one another). This is seen more in beginners and intermediate skiers. The second most common is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear usually caused by skiers trying to prevent a fall and twisting the other way or landing a jump poorly. 

I see a vast number of patients at London Bridge Hospital, who have a range of knee traumas following an accident on the slopes, many of which could have been prevented if they followed correct advice. So, for those planning a trip to the slopes, here are my top tips for preventing ski knee injuries.  

Train and strengthen before your ski trip

Skiing is physically demanding and challenges the muscles and joints in a way we do not routinely use them. It is extremely important that during the months leading up to a ski holiday, you prepare your body and train your knees to prevent risk of injury. Treat it like training for a long run or a triathlon. Many gyms and physios offer pre-ski strength and conditioning classes to get you into shape before your holiday, otherwise try squats, wall-sitting and side planks mixed in with your cardio. 

Ensure you have the correct skiing posture and technique

If you are a beginner or intermediate skier it is important you take time to learn the proper skiing technique – hands and weight forward, legs parallel, and hips, knees and ankles flexing equally. The best way to learn is to take lessons. If you are an experienced skier, you should consider some ski technique coaching lessons to help hone and improve your skills. Understanding the best technique will help protect you from injury. 

Learn how to fall correctly when skiing

Many knee injuries occur after a fall because the body stiffens up and tries to correct itself and regain composure. If you do catch and edge or feel yourself falling, tuck you chin in and try to loosen the body and draw in your limbs – you will be less likely to injure yourself. 

Listen to your body and ski within your limits

If your body is exhausted and you are feeling a little “off” it is important to listen to these signals and rest. Being fatigued, stiff, and tired increases your chances of injury. Make sure to warm up before skiing and warm down afterwards taking enough rest and relaxation between visits to the slopes. 
Also, make sure to ski within your limits and don’t push yourself to the point you feel out of control. Staying on marked trails also means you don’t have to consider concealed obstacles, such as tree stumps or rocks, which can contribute to injuries.  

Do not overtighten bindings

Bindings must be professionally fitted and not too tight, as if the ski fails to detach during a fall it can twist the leg, and knee – increasing the risk of injury to ligaments around joints or fractures to bones.

Alcohol and skiing should not mix

Going on a skiing holiday should be about relaxing, having fun and spending time with friends and family. This often may involve an alcoholic drink or two. I recommend that alcoholic drinks should be reserved for après ski!

To book an appointment with Mr Adil Ajuied at London Bridge Hospital, contact 0845 519 9234.