Get your equipment right...... and the risks if you don't!

Possible risks of poorly fitted kit

In the clinic we regularly see the negative consequences of slapdash ski/snowboarding fittings. Ski/board equipment should be fitted to become an extension of the person to help navigate the uneven snowy terrain.

Loose/tight/non-height appropriate equipment, however, will only give your body more instability and strain to deal with, and can strongly increase your injury risk.

We asked our good friends at Snowberry (http://www.snowberry-valdisere.com/index.html) – the award-winning ski hire specialists in Val d’Isère – to tell us a bit more about the equipment issues that can lead to these injuries, and Danielle goes into a bit more detail about what these might be.

They can include …………….

ACL tears

The ACL is a stability ligament in the knee that can be injured with a twisting force of the upper thigh when the lower leg is fixed. This is more often than not an injury that will end your time on the slopes - for up to nine months in the worst case.

Snowberry says ….

An ACL injury is one of the worst ski injuries you can have in many respects, and it can put you out of action for a lot longer than a broken bone. One of the main causes of ACL injuries is badly adjusted ski bindings, which mean that the binding does not release your foot immediately in a fall, resulting in the twisting injury described above.

Correct adjustment of ski bindings is a complicated, technical, scientific process designed to create the best possible, very fine balance between the two contradictory functions of your bindings - that are to hold your foot safely on the ski but at the same time release it to prevent an injury. 

It really is shocking how badly some shops adjust bindings though, so make sure you are happy with the service you are getting and don’t feel rushed. And tell the truth! You may not wish to own up to putting a few kilos/pounds on, but it is important that the person adjusting your bindings knows your correct weight.

What most people don’t realize as well is that your boots can also cause an ACL injury. Even if your bindings are adjusted perfectly in every respect, if your boots are too big (which can be very common) the extra space means the force exerted on the binding is less and can mean release is slower, or not at all.

Anterior compartment syndrome

The front of your shin is a sensitive area not used to taking much pressure. Due to the forward leaning angle of the ankles and knees during snow sports there is more pressure on the shin. Well fitted snow boots ( http://www.snowberry-valdisere.com/premium-bootfitting.html) will ensure that this pressure is evenly distributed. This helps to prevent fluid build-up in the very small compartment of the shin which can cause pain and severe swelling.

Snowberry says …

This is what we call shin bang, and it can be very painful. Sometimes it’s more or less unavoidable, especially if you already have a tender area on your shin, and sometimes although there’s nothing WRONG with your boots, changing them will help as a different model of boots will have pressure in a different place.

However most often shin bang is caused by boots that are too stiff or just too big, so that your foot and lower leg slides back and forward within the boot. Unfortunately it’s very common for some rental shops to fit customers in boots that are at least one and sometimes two sizes too big as they feel nice and comfy in the shop (of course they do, you’re not even touching!).

Correctly-fitting boots should feel like a firm handshake all over, if your boots feel too big in the shop insist they change them there and then, before you leave, and keep insisting until you are happy. Shin bang can also be caused by walking around with your boots undone, again this means your foot and lower leg is sliding about in the boot, so clip your boots up loosely even when you’re not skiing, and fasten the power strap.

Rotator cuff pathology

The Rotator cuff is a group of muscles in the shoulder responsible for maintaining its stability. This issue pertains specifically to your ski poles. Having your poles too high or low for your stature will put undue stress through your shoulders, leaving your tendons overworked and at risk of injury. 

Snowberry says …

Poles are something that are so often treated as insignificant but can actually be quite important. Poles that are too long make you tend to lean backwards while poles that are too short will have you leaning too far forwards. The right way to measure for pole length is to turn the pole upside down and hold it with your hand resting on the basket, your forearm should be at a right angle.

Fracture or concussion

This really is the worst case scenario, but it’s important to be aware and safe. It stands to reason that having ill-fitting kit will only make you more unstable, less balanced and therefore more susceptible to frequent more serious falls. A lot of us will fall regularly and be able to get back up, calm down and carry on, however, some falls can result in a broken bone or a knock to the head which may cause a concussion. Both of these injuries will most certainly end your time on the slopes. 

Snowberry says …

There are a whole load of areas to do with your ski kit that can make you more susceptible to a fall and therefore to injuries such as broken bones and concussion, as well as less serious bumps and bruises – from skis that are badly serviced so you catch an edge at high speed to bindings that pull out as you hurtle down the slope because the skis are so old the core is rotten inside and there’s nothing left to hold the screws.

We strongly recommend you inspect your ski equipment as closely as possible and if it seems to be in bad condition refuse to accept it. We also strongly recommend that everyone – adults and children – should wear a certified safety helmet and make sure it is the right size and properly fitted and adjusted. A helmet that is too big, wobbling around on your head, or too small, leaving a gaping expanse of open forehead, is no protection at all.

A plea from us both …

So please do be safe and get the right fit for you to stay injury free this season!

Go see specialists like Snowberry (http://www.snowberry-valdisere.com/index.html) to get the best possible equipment but, if the worst should happen, don’t forget we are on hand to help deal with any unfortunate injuries, aches or pains that may arise and guide you to the best possible resolution!

Disclaimer:
The purpose of this blog is to provide general information and educational material relating to exercise, physiotherapy and injury management. Bonne Santé Alps has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information. In using this blog, you agree that information is provided 'as is, as available', without warranty and that you use the information at your own risk. We recommend that you seek advice from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues.

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