Ski Related Knee Injuries

Teaching a Winter Mountaineering Course. This is a group of Students from Colgate University, NY. I had the opportunity to train with. Knowing whether a injury will lead to an emergency evac or not is important when in the backcountry

Although this is a little more aimed toward Ski Patrol Personnel, Backcountry Guides with medical background and such, there are still some good thoughts for even the lay person.  I trained and graduated from the Army Medical Training Center, at Ft. Sam Houston, TX, as a Medic, and later certified as an EMT with the State of Utah, but I rarely do medical training of others.

So when I decided to write this article, I contacted Dr. Hooker, an Emergency Physician, that works with the Search and Rescue Teams, as well as the Ski Patrol.  Dr. Hooker has been our team doc on a couple of expeditions, including McKinley, and one Mt. Everest.  I first met Dr. Hooker when we had arranged for the County’s Mountain Rescue Team to conduct their monthly meeting at the Park Service Visitor Center.

As the team members entered the Visitor Center AV Auditorium that evening, I was greeting them, shaking hands, and such; and this tall, dark haired guy, put his hand out and said “Hi, Keith Hooker.”  We shook hands, I greeted him, and then went about the evening affairs.  It was probably a month later before I found out he was a Physician, a Bush Pilot doctor who had trained and worked in Alaska for a number of years, and was now one of the key figures in the Emergency Department of the Regional Medical Center.

Training with the Ski Patrol Professionals at Solitude Mountain Resort. I am just hanging out, and explaining a High-Span Evacuation System I designed for one of their lifts. While working with the ski patrol, doing emergency lift evacuation training, and some avalanche work, I often asked about their jobs.  They seem like they have one of the coolest jobs out there.  Anyway, it was interesting to me to find out they still deal with a fair amount of knee injuries, as well as other related injuries; despite the high quality ski bindings most skiers have now days.

Also, anyone who ventures into the backcountry or on an expedition, will find this knowledge good to have.  That includes backcountry guides, search and rescue personnel, and those who leave the resorts behind.  Just like having knowledge about avalanches, emergency medical knowledge can help prevent problems, and well as help us deal with them.  I know I have had to deal with twist knees and having a feel for what has happened, and how to handle it, was important.

The first part of anything like this is, “prevention.” An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”  That starts with getting in shape, getting our equipment adjusted and tuned up.  The next prevention ideas are a little harder to do.  The three I things I think about most are stretching, equipment adjustments to meet current circumstances, and recognizing when we are getting tired.

When we arrive at our destination, making it a point to do a good stretch will go a long ways towards better performance and preventing injuries.  I recommend a head to toe stretch, not just the legs and back.  It improves blood flow, and makes our bodies less prone to injury, and improves performance.

Equipment adjustments prevent injuries as well; things like making sure your bindings are adjusted for your skiing style, weight, etc.  Also, adjust your clothing so you can move freely, and snug your boots up good and fairly tight.  If they are at all sloppy you lose critical edge and ski control, which can lead to an injury.  I know this one from personal experience.  I was a little over confident, and did not following these things.  It was the start of the season; I tried to ski the same way I ended the prior season.  Oops!

Next, work up slowly speed slowly, and in critical activities move consciously and somewhat slowly, “haste make waste.”   In Mountaineering I teach, “Do things fast, and things go bad fast.  Do them slowly and you have a better chance of recognizing the potential problem before it becomes serious.”

The other has to do with staying conscious of how we are feeling.  Remembering  to drink plenty of fluids and eat things like complex carbos, and even some simple ones, will help, but . . .   When we are with friends, having fun, or involved in work, we can easily keep pushing, expecting the same performance we did at the beginning of the day.  That is a combination problems.

When we get tired we lose our fine motor skills, thus it is easier to make a mistake, then crash and burn.  Then, since we are not fresh we do not do the littles that minimize the injuries or prevent them, so we end up with more serious injuries.  Now we are reading this article thinking, hmm?

Here’s the article I have been talking about, hope it is of value to you.