The crutch and cast are notorious aftermaths of the ski weekend. Not only pain and inconvenience result for the individual concerned, but also he often is unable to participate in his favorite winter sport until next season.
Because of the common occurrence of skiing injuries, The Ski Supplement attempts to explore how such injuries come about and to suggest standards of behavior and physical fitness that will minimize your chances of being hurt.
Our consultant was Dr. Gavin Manson, an orthopedic surgeon who spends his Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with the University Health Service. Dr. Manson is from Cambridge, England, and is an enthusiastic skier with experience both here and in Europe.
Dr. Manson believes that "fitness in the head is more important that fitness in the body" with regard to skiing safely. That is, the incidence of accidents rises sharply as alertness falls off at such times as before lunch and late in the day. Dr. Manson suggests the following guidelines for your safety on the slopes.
1. Do not try to ski above your capabilities. It is not the novice who usually gets hurt but rather the skier who has been out five or six times and tries to do something that is too difficult for his experience.
2. Use proper equipment -- boots that fit and correctly adjusted safety bindings. The type of ski itself is unimportant as this varies with snow conditions. However, the less proficient you are, the shorter are the skis required.
3. Be extra cautious when you are fatigued. The last run of the day is definitely not the time to try breaking records; you may break yourself rather than your record.
Average Fitness Enough
An average standard of general physical fitness is adequate for skiing, Dr. Manson states. That is, you should be able to swim two or three lengths of the pool or play a game of tennis or squash without puffing like a steam locomotive.
Most people do not have strong enough legs for comfortable skiing over an extended period. Dr. Manson believes that a skier should be able to do two full kneebends on each leg (one at a time). However, most people find difficulty in performing one full kneebend on each leg.
Dr. Manson recommends the following exercises to tone up your physical fitness for skiing. They are simple to understand and require no equipment.
1. Do the deep kneebends as suggested above.
2. Position yourself against a wall in sitting posture, with knees bent at right angles, and in this "unsupported sit" read The New York Times from cover to cover. (It looks easy . . .).
3. Get' your ankles and heel cords supple. A good exercise is to stand facing a wall with both feet touching the wall. Leave one foot with toes touching the all and draw the other foot back 3 shoe-lengths from the wall. Hold this leg straight at the knee and crouch forward until the other knee touches the wall. Repeat alternating legs. Similar results may be obtained by walking up and down stairs without bending the knees.
Due to Skiers
Crashes occur when the skier is trying to do something that is too difficult and too fast for his capabilities. Obviously, it is necessary to know what skiing involves before you take to the slopes. Fortunately, there are many simple booklets available to the novice and he should read some of them at the outset of his skiing career rather than while he is waiting for his broken leg to heal.
The most common skiing accident is fracture of the ankle or lower leg, and strains at the knee. Dr. Manson therefore reiterates the importance of having good equipment: an efficient safety binding will convert a stress capable of breaking a bone into a simple strain, and a stress capable of producing a strain into nothing but a loosened ski.
Should disaster threaten in spite of all precautions, try to relax, go limp and let yourself fall gently. However, Dr. Manson admits that such sang-froid "takes practice."
But the main point about skiing accidents is that they are virtually always the skier's fault. The Supplement hopes that the comments above will permit you to test your skills and enjoy all the thrills of speed and swirling snow without tempting the Nemises of the slopes. The suggestions about safety are common sense and the physical fitness exercises are to improve your enjoyment of skiing without being a boring rigmarole.
Good luck and keep going "again next weekend."