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How Your New Skis Could Really Hurt You

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How Your New Skis Could Really Hurt You

Dec 01, 2014

New parabolic skis allow skiers to have more control on the slope, but the new shape may lead to injuries, even for experienced skiers. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Rothberg discusses training to prevent these types of injuries and the importance of posture on parablobic skis.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: Why buying a new pair of skis should also change the way you prepare for your ski season. That's next on The Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah specialists and physicians you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: Dr. David Rothberg is an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Utah Health Care, and the new type of parabolic skis actually mean that you might be opening yourself up to a different type of injury that you are not used to before, and mean that you need to get back to the basics of skiing. Talk about that a little bit. What are you seeing with the new parabolic skis, which are great, they give you so much more control and make it more fun, but they also can make it more dangerous.

Dr. Rothberg: We absolutely love the new ski shapes we are seeing because they allow us to do things that we weren't able to before. We can turn more quickly, we can navigate steeper slopes, and do so with a shorter lighter ski. But one of the problems that we think we are seeing with this is because the ski is shorter and we can turn more quickly we're actually putting more force on our knee. Because of that when you buy your new pair of skis you need to think about your knees fitness and how you're training for the season. As we know to prevent injuries you both need to be fit, and aware of your surroundings but also battle fatigue. When you get fatigued your technique becomes poor and you set yourself up for knee injuries.

Interviewer: So it sounds like if you get a new set of these skis and maybe you are going from an old style you may be in far a little bit of a surprise and you may want to reevaluate your physical condition.

Dr. Rothberg: Absolutely, at the result of some pretty serious knee injuries. The most common thing we see is an MCL strain which really is more of a beginners knee injury, which you have been stuck in the pizza pie, or snow plow position all day long and just strained the inside of the knee. Further more we start to see more ligament injuries, like an ACL tear which is so common. Both in non-ski athletes and skiers alike where the ski continues down hill with the lower leg, but your body is going backwards and puts that anterior-ly directed force on your tibia and tears the ACL ligament.
Then to a higher level of trauma, what we see so frequently here at the University of Utah is the tibial plateau fracture, or the top of the tibia, base of the knee fracture. We think that a lot of these are coming because you are able to put so much force on the knee with your shorter tighter turn radius.

Interviewer: So even experienced skiers might be a little surprised if they switch to this different type of ski. They're going to get what are typically considered beginner injuries maybe.

Dr. Rothberg: Absolutely, it is all related to how much force you can put on your knee.

Interviewer: You mentioned the importance of being more aware of your surroundings if you switch to this type of ski. What exactly do you mean there and how does that affect what I'm doing on the slopes?

Dr. Rothberg: Being aware of your surroundings is a combination of knowing what is physically around you as in the slope and snow conditions, weather conditions, visibility, and also it is really just as important to know what your own limitations are. Being aware of where you should be on the mountain and when you should be there, and what time of day it is, are you tired and is it time to take a break.

Interviewer: So what is your advise to somebody that if they are switching to a parabolic type ski to maybe help prevent these types of injury that you might be seeing as a result of better control, faster more torque on the body?

Dr. Rothberg: Well control is really going to come from about two or three muscle groups in your body. The obvious ones are your quadriceps and hamstrings, muscles around the knee. But secondarily, the hip stabilizing muscles, the abductors, and then thirdly the core strength. All these things are going to play into your body awareness and balance and ability to manipulate uneven surfaces and abnormal body angles so you can recover from variations as you turn and navigate the slopes.

Interviewer: How do I know before it's to late that maybe I shouldn't be pushing myself as hard as I think I can? Is there a way to determine that?

Dr. Rothberg: That's the hardest question to answer because it is always the last run of the day you get hurt.

Interviewer: Oh, is that because of fatigue?

Dr. Rothberg: No, it's because once you got hurt you're done.

Interviewer: Oh okay, is it last run of the day you get because of fatigue?

Dr. Rothberg: Yeah, probably. In addition to fitness and awareness comes in hydration as well. So one of the important things about being on the mountain is staying adequately hydrated.

Interviewer: Do the new parabolic type of skis actually tire you out more quickly?

Dr. Rothberg: It may not be that the ski itself tires you out more quickly, but your ability to navigate more difficult terrain and push yourself because of the tighter turn radius may in effect cause the fatigue.

Interviewer: So what would your final word of advice be to a skier putting on a pair of parabolic skis?

Dr. Rothberg: I think the most important thing is to know your skill level, be aware of the terrain you are on, and be aware that you are going to be able to make much tighter turns which are going to make you have to react more quickly to the slope that you're on.

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