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Skiing injuries - how to prevent a dreaded anterior cruciate ligament injury

By Chris Douglas
Assistant Claims Manager

Whatever your level of experience, injuries while skiing are all too common and can put you out of sporting action for a long time, especially if you are unfortunate to suffer an ACL tear. The ACL is one of four ligaments in the knee. It runs from the back edge of the bottom of the thigh bone (femur) to the front edge of the top of the shin bone (tibia). The job of the ACL is to provide stability to the knee by preventing the tibia from sliding forward or twisting.

Recovery from a ruptured ACL is lengthy as reconstructive surgery is required to restore the stability of the knee. Intense physiotherapy is needed following surgery for up to nine months before a return to sporting activity is possible. Despite all this treatment, the knee is never as strong again and your chance of re-injury is high.

ACL tears in skiers have become more common as skiing technology has developed. Modern skis have increased the likelihood of skis catching in the snow, which can lead to the knee twisting. Ski boots further increase the chances of an ACL tear due to the increased support and protection they provide at the ankle, which places increased demands on the knee. However, snowboarders incur fewer knee injuries, so there are other options to look at if you do suffer a knee injury and want to return to the slopes year after year. 

So what can be done to prevent an ACL tear?

Following these top tips can go a long way to prevent injury:

  • Take lessons before you go - knowing how to ski prevents your chances of injuring yourself significantly.
  • Undertake a pre ski trip training programme - a two month exercise programme to strengthen your hip, knee and ankle muscles will improve your chances of staying injury free.
  • Take a rest day – an accident is most likely after 3pm on the third day of your trip. This is because muscle fatigue reaches its peak 48 hours after you start your holiday.
  • Avoid alcohol at lunchtime - drinking reduces reaction times and will increase the chances of an accident.
  • Do snowboarding instead - knee injuries are less common in snowboarding and the physical demands are not as great.
  • Keep the weight off - excess weight places additional demands on your knees and increases your chances of getting injured.


And to reduce the risk of general injury:

  • Always wear a helmet - all the professionals at Sochi wear one, so you should too.
  • Remember your ability - don’t overstretch yourself. Black runs are for advanced/expert skiers!