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Get in shape now to avoid winter sports injuries
by Dr. Luis Palacio
Nov 06, 2011 | 1136 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. Luis Palacio
Dr. Luis Palacio
Safety in winter sports starts well before you hit the slopes. To ensure that your body is ready for the intense exercise and higher elevations of skiing, snowboarding or other sports, you need to begin getting into condition weeks before your first trip.

Preparing your cardiovascular system is essential because the strenuous exercise at higher elevations will require your body to maintain a higher oxygen level. To build endurance, plan to exercise three to five days each week, doing your favorite activity. Ideal exercises for skiing include running, a stair stepper, step aerobics, an elliptical trainer and rollerblading. Work out for 20 to 45 minutes with a variety of exercises of varying intensities. Once each week, do a long, slow workout for 60 minutes or more to condition your legs and lungs for long days of skiing. As with any exercise, consult a physician before starting your routine.

While skiing uses all of the major muscle groups, the core bears the brunt of this exercise. Building a strong core will enhance your overall performance on the slopes and enable you to move more smoothly and surely. This involves strengthening your back, shoulders, abdomen and hips. Yoga and Pilates offer two routes for improving your core, with the advantage that you can work out at home and for little cost and time.

A balanced approach to muscle training includes weight training three times per week. This helps counter the effects of aging and weakening muscles, which could lead to injury. To build strength and endurance along with speed on the slopes, lift less weight with more repetition.

Especially recommended are quadriceps training, such as a single leg squat and a weighted quadriceps squat. The use of curling machines helps build the hamstrings. This is especially important for women who might have weaker hamstrings, as these muscles help support the knees and thus prevent injuries. To help avoid imbalance, work on all areas equally. Having an imbalance in strength could result in tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

To keep your body limber, stretch after exercising. While stretching before exercise does no harm, stretching when your muscles are warm and loose reduces the chances of injury during physical activity.

The core twist is a great stretch for skiers and boarders. Stand with your knees bent slightly and cross your arms in front of you. Slowly look over one shoulder and let your entire body follow until you feel a good stretch in the back and side. Hold that pose for five seconds and repeat in the other direction. Also recommended are hamstring and quadriceps stretches.

Remember that a proper diet also will help you prepare for strenuous winter exercise. Eating pasta, bread and grains provides carbohydrates, which help your body rebuild muscle tissue that might have been damaged during physical activity. Keeping your body hydrated helps you avoid the headache, muscle cramping and rapid onset of fatigue from dehydration. With Nevada’s dry climate, you can best beat dehydration by consuming small amounts of water over a long period.

Before you head for one of our many fabulous ski areas, invest in a helmet. This could prevent a concussion or other serious injury in case of an accident.

Having an annual sports physical offers another way to make sure that your overall health is ready for the challenges of winter sports. Northern Nevada Medical Group offers sports physicals and medical care by trained professionals specializing in sports-related injuries. Located in Spanish Springs at 5070 Ion Drive, Suite #200, they accept most insurance plans, including Medicare. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 352-5300.

Luis Palacio, MD, is a family medicine physician and the director of Sports Medicine at the Northern Nevada Medical Group. He earned his medical degree from Universidad Central Del Este, San Pedro de Macoris, in the Dominican Republic. Board certified in both family medicine and sports medicine, he completed his family medicine residency at Saint Elizabeth Hospital in Chicago and his sports medicine fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Dr. Palacio is fluent in English and Spanish.
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