Feb 10, 2016 1:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell


It is something that every ski patrol member knows: Most injuries happen at the end of the day.

“Usually, it’s from about 3:30 to 5 o’clock,” says Travis Maak, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with University of Utah Health and former ski patroller. “You basically put your gear on and get ready, because you are going out. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

There are two main contributing factors to the “injury magic hour.” The first is the slopes themselves. As the temperature starts to drop, the snow gets harder and less forgiving. The runs also aren’t as well-groomed as they were at the start of the day. “It gets icier and a bit skied-out,” says Maak. “The terrain itself is more difficult.”

While skiers can’t do anything about the change in terrain, they can do something about the second factor—themselves. Many skiers push themselves to do one more run, even if they shouldn’t. “You want to keep going and get the most out of it. You ask yourself what’s wrong with just that one more run?” says Maak.

Here’s what’s wrong with one more run: Your body can’t take it. After a day of skiing, your muscles are fatigued. “When muscle fatigue happens, the muscles aren’t working correctly. They start to get weak and tired,” says Maak. “Your mind may want them to go, but it just doesn't happen.”

When your muscles start to fail, the energy they were absorbing previously has to go somewhere else. Often, it’s the ligaments in your knees—which then tear. These ligaments include the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL. “In particular, it’s the ACL,” says Maak. “The ACL seems to be the skier’s injury.”

You can get off the mountain with your ligaments intact—and still take that one last run. Just make sure it’s the right run. “Let your body be your guide,” Maak says. “Instead of taking a double black for your last run, maybe take a groomer, a nice little smooth one, down to the base. You don’t have to be a hero at the end of the day.”

He adds: “That way, you will be able to come back the day after.” 


Libby Mitchell

Libby Mitchell is the Social Media Coordinator for University of Utah Health Care. Follow her on Twitter @LibbyMitchellUT.

skiing knees ACL joint fitness

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