Racing down a mountain, carving massive turns and even dodging trees can get the adrenaline pumping, but like any other extreme sport, injuries can bring the fun to a sudden halt. We asked professional skier and coach Brant Moles about the most common injuries he’s seen that put a skier out of commission. To help you stay healthy on the slopes, we also consulted with Naudi Aguilar, owner and head trainer at Functional Patterns, about how Self Myofascial Release, or SMFR, a form of preventative and rehabilitative training, can help avoid or alleviate these ski-specific injuries. What is Self Myofascial Release? Similar to a massage, the intent of SMFR is to “mobilize joints to a neutral point so they can get full range of motion and stability,” says Aguilar. Putting pressure on a specific area that has too much fascia built up will promote relaxation to bring a joint back to balance and eliminate pain.
A torn or bruised meniscus, ACL or MCL ligament injuries are extremely prevalent in skiers and typically occur when falling. Moles says the injury is more likely when a skier is sitting too far back on the skis when landing a jump or twisting in the knee while maneuvering a turn. Aguilar’s SMFR Advice Poor lateral stability while skiing could be the culprit of most riding knee problems. Aguilar recommends releasing tension in the IT bands (iliotibial band) by placing pressure on the area one to two times per day for a minimum of one minute. The technique will allow the knee to come back to a centered position and alleviate any added pressure to the joint. What you need: Lacrosse ball and Hanbo (or similar) stick Moles’ Technical Skiing Advice “If you stay forward and in control, you drastically decrease you chances of hurting yourself or your knee,” says Moles. While on a ski run, he recommends staying in a position similar to a tennis player about to make a serve. Hands should be up, legs bent and weight distributed on the balls of your feet.
Twisting an ankle is extremely common when skiing. Moles says, “It can happen while skiing through gates and hooking a tip. Other obstacles such as ‘snow snakes’ can grab your skis and twist ankles.” Aguilar’s SMFR Advice Aguilar believes the over-development of peroneus longus muscles in the lower leg is what sets up the ankle up to fail. “If the ankle isn’t centered and then an abrupt movement is done, injury will inevitably happen. Place pressure with the lacrosse ball on the area one to two times daily for a minimum of one minute. By doing this release, you are going to re-center the ankle into a more naturally strong position,” Aguilar says. What you need: Lacrosse ball Moles’ Technical Skiing Advice Staying in an athletic position with weight on both skis will allow you to make the small adjustments needed to avoid these hangups. NEXT: Shin & Shoulder
Like shin splints, shin bang happens when you’re not positioned right in your skis. Moles says, “It mostly happens when landing jumps, if you are leaning back on the boot there’s a ton of strain on your shins.” Aguilar’s SMFR Advice It’s the tibialis anterior muscle that takes the brunt when landing jumps. Aguilar recommends rolling the Hanbo stick over the area similarly to a rolling pin on dough. Perform the release one to two times daily for a minimum of one minute. “This release point is specifically for the relaxation of this over-worked muscle,” Aguilar says. What you need: Hanbo (or similar) stick Moles’ Technical Skiing Advice “Stay forward and centered on your skis and practice small jumps before you go huge,” Moles says.
Mostly happens when falling. Can also happen with repetitive hard pole planting and flailing arms. Aguilar’s SMFR Advice Shoulder injuries are most common when pectoral muscles are too strong and pull the shoulder out of position and make the rotator cuff overwork for stability. “The pectoral release will re-align this shoulder imbalance,” Aguilar says. He recommends performing the release on the area with a lacrosse ball one to two times daily for a minimum of one minute. What you need: Lacrosse ball Mole’s Technical Skiing Advice “Stay in shape and stay in a solid position while you are skiing and try to tuck and roll when you fall,” Moles says. NEXT: Thumb & Back
Your hand is often the first thing to hit the ground when you fall and sometimes your thumb will take all the impact. Moles blames most of these injuries on leaning into the turn and clipping your hand or falling. Aguilar’s SMFR Advice “Most thumb issues are directly correlated to weakness or tightness of the adductor pollicis muscle,” Aguilar says. He recommends performing a release on the area with a Hanbo stick one to two times daily for a minimum of one minute. “The release will break up the tension in the area, he said.” What you need: Hanbo (or similar) stick Moles’ Technical Skiing Advice Ski with a solid stance and keep your hands up. Tuck and roll when falling.
If you are not in a solid position while skiing, bumps and changing snow conditions can really mess with your back. Aguilar’s SMFR Advice Aguilar mentions that skiers are placing a great deal of tension in the back because of the great deal of lateral stability involved in the sport. He recommends focusing attention on release points in the gluteus medius and minimus to break up tension. Perform lacrosse ball releases on the area one to two times daily for a minimum of one minute. What you need: Lacrosse ball Moles’ Technical Skiing Advice “To combat a possible back problem, stay in an athletic position while skiing utilizing your core muscles for stability,” Mole says. He also recommends taking it easy in the early season as your body is not in ski shape.