Many of us are looking forward to the ski season. Snow fall is upon us, skis are waxed, and snow tires mounted. Some of us are also dreading the post ski joint and muscle soreness. If you’ve ever suffered from après ski knee pain, either from getting out of the car after the long drive home, or from having to go up and down stairs in ski boots, this article is for you!
The knee joint connects the thigh bone (Femur) to the shin bone (Tibia). This joint has two compartments, a medial and lateral compartment. There is a meniscus in each compartment that helps the joint to absorb shock and distribute forces evenly. On top of that – literally and figuratively- is the patella a.k.a the knee cap. Your quadriceps attach onto the patella and work to control knee extension.
While skiing, the main function of the knee is to support your body from the ever-changing terrain beneath you. In order to accommodate moguls, sudden changes in snow conditions, and landings, the knee must be able to absorb load while the muscles around it work to help create stability.If our hip flexors and quadriceps are tight, then there will be too much pressure on the patella and the underlying femur. This results in pain around the knee cap, and is one contributing factor to patellar tendonitis. There is a very good stretch for one of your quadriceps (Rectus Femoris) which also acts as a hip flexor. If you sit for work and weekend ski, this exercise is a must!
1: Couch Stretch –Elevate foot onto stool/ottoman/couch. Core engaged, no excess arch in back. Hinge at the knee and bring body towards heel. Feel the stretch front of the thigh. 30 seconds.
2: Couch Stretch – with foot elevated ottoman/couch. Core engaged, do not arch back. Move into forward lunge. Feel stretch front of thigh higher up towards hip. 30 seconds.
3: A common cause of knee pain while skiing is allowing the knees to ‘cave ‘inwards. This puts too much stress on the inside tendons and ligaments, and too much pressure on the lateral compartment of the knee. Imagine “snow plow” or “pizza” stopping at high speeds- OUCH! There’s a reason why the beginner skiier quickly transitions from “pizza” to “french fries”.
4: Try this exercise to help strengthen the muscles required to provide proper knee position. There is a direct correlation between strength in your hips and decreased knee pain!
5: Squat into reverse lunge with band, add rotation.
6: Single leg hip hinge, add hip opener. Ensure knee remains in line over your foot. If required, can use a chair or table to maintain balance. Start off with 5-8 repetitions, 2-3 sets as able. Quality and control over speed and reps!
7: Add hip opener, do not let knee track inwards.
Thanks for reading, I hope you get to enjoy the slopes this winter! If you experience pain or want to work on strengthening for prehab or rehab, be sure to consult your physiotherapist.