Skiing and ACL Injuries

02/03/2015

(Bangor, Maine) – Maine is known for its long, cold, snowy winters. For many, tough winter weather means more than shoveling and removing snow from vehicles: it’s an invitation to put on skis and get out on the slopes and into the fields. The key to enjoying the sport is to stay safe and know what to do when an injury occurs. According to EMMC Sports Health experts, ACL knee injuries are particularly common this time of year.

“Injuries are possible with both Nordic and downhill skiing, but we end up seeing more downhill skiers getting hurt because the pace is faster and there is more lateral movement,” says JP Stowe, ATC, CSCS, an athletic trainer at EMMC Sports Health. “The bindings on skis are tight, so the force of any type of twisting in the ankle area goes right up the leg to the knee.”

There are several things skiers can do to reduce their risk of experiencing an ACL injury, including choosing a course that is appropriate for the skier’s ability level, staying on trails, wearing the proper equipment, and ensuring bindings and skis are in good condition. EMMC Sports Health experts also advise new skiers to take a skiing safety course.

If an ACL injury is suspected, there are several things that should be done as soon as possible to ensure proper diagnosis and begin recovery.

“A good first step is to elevate the knee, put ice on it, and apply compression by wrapping it,” adds JP. “These steps will reduce swelling. If present when the injury occurs, an athletic trainer or ski patroller can do an initial evaluation and determine the proper next steps for care, which will usually include seeing an orthopedic surgeon for a thorough diagnosis. If an athletic trainer or ski patroller is not available, a visit to a primary care provider or walk-in care is advised.”

Both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options are available for ACL injuries. The long-term prognosis is very good, and after a period of rehabilitation, most people who have surgery return to full activity after about six months.

For more information about ACL injuries, review an ACL injury fact sheet at sports.emmc.org.