Ski Season Prehab: Protecting the ACL

It’s a nightmare scenario for any skier:  an audible pop right after a quick change in direction, followed by a buckling sensation in the knee joint and, most likely, plenty of pain.

During intense athletic activity, the knee joint is often exposed to tremendous amounts of force, especially during directional changes and/or deceleration.  When that happens, the role of the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) is to prevent the tibia (shin bone) from separating from the femur (thigh bone), which is generally not a good thing.   When the force absorbed by the joint exceeds the surrounding musculature’s ability to resist it, the  ACL becomes vulnerable and susceptible to injury.  You can read more about the kinesiological mechanisms of ACL injury here.   Skiers and snowboarders are at a particularly high risk for ACL injury because of the constant directional changes involved in these sports.

However, the good news is, there is a way to greatly reduce that risk.  We know that a combination of excessive shearing and rotational forces on the knee joint can cause an ACL injury, but what is the underlying issue that makes those forces “excessive”?  The answer is strength.  Weak hips, and weak hamstrings in particular, can lead to a general inability to stabilize the knee joint and safely absorb force during deceleration and directional changes.  Read more about that here.

The bottom line is (simply) this: the risk of ACL injury, on the slopes or anywhere else, can be greatly reduced by increasing strength in the hips and legs.   An ACL tear is almost always a very expensive, season-ending injury, and many athletes never fully recover from it.  If you aren’t working on improving your strength to help prevent this type of injury, you should be.

To learn more about how a well-planned strength training program can help protect your knees (and other joints) while also taking your training and performance to the next level, check out our website at or sign up for a time to chat with us for free!


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