Get the most of your ski and snowboard season.

If you live in a warmer climate, ski and snowboard season is pretty short. To get the most out of the season, you almost need to approach it like a professional athlete regardless of whether you’re new to the sport or advanced.

Peter Gerbino MD just returned from France with the US Figure Skating team who reportedly did very well. So we checked in with Dr. Gerbino for tips on how to minimize your risk of knee injuries, what to do if you suspect a Medial Collateral Ligament [MCL] or Anterior Cruciate Ligament [ACL] injury and what you can expect in terms of recovery time if you get injured.

If you have general questions, you’re always welcome to shoot us an email. For medical advice about your specific injury or issue, book an appointment to speak with Dr. Gerbino directly.

Nine [9] tips to help you prevent ski and sport related knee injuries.

1/ Is there a telltale sign that you have a MCL vs ACL injury?

MCL is on the inside of the knee, but outside the joint so the swelling is all medial on the inside aspect of the knee. ACL is within the joint so the whole knee is swollen. MCL is unstable valgus (knock-knee) position. ACL is unstable in front-to-back motion. Of course, both ligaments can be injured at the same time.

2/ How can you minimize the injury?

Minimize further injury by getting off the leg. Crutches if possible. Minimize swelling by packing in ice and avoiding blood thinners (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen).

3/ Do you see more MCL or ACL injuries? 

In skiing, both injuries are common. I have not seen statistics as to which occurs more.

4/ Is proper conditioning and warmup more important for an adult vs. child? 

Proper conditioning is important for everyone, regardless of age. Even more critical that conditioning is knowing when to stop. Fatigue leads to more injuries than poor conditioning. On a rough day with poor snow conditions, even a well-conditioned athlete may need to stop after 3-4 hrs. When the muscles and brain are tired, form breaks down and falls with injuries occur.

5/ Is one method of conditioning better than another for skiing? 

There is no perfect conditioning protocol for skiing. A good strength and conditioning professional will check you out head to toe and see what your needs are. Skiing takes lower body strength and endurance, but core and upper body strength are also mandatory. Find out where you need work and focus there, but include everything.

6/ What is the treatment for MCL? 

99% of MCL tears heal without surgery. Grade 1 tears (pain, but no looseness) will heal is 6 weeks. Grade 2 (less than 5mm laxity) will need a brace and take longer to heal and rehabilitate. Grade 3 (complete tears) will also need a brace and may take 12 weeks to fully recover.

7/ What is the treatment for ACL? 

ACL tears do not heal on their own. If it’s a small partial tear you can return to sports in 6 weeks. Most complete tears require reconstruction. Most agree that after reconstruction it is at least a year before sports can be tried if there has been adequate rehabilitation. Only 2/3 to 3/4 of ACL patients return to their former sports.

New techniques to repair, rather than reconstruct the ACL are being studied. The standard remains reconstruction with your own tissue or with graft from a tissue bank.

8/ How often should people upgrade their equipment?

Equipment is constantly being improved. The best way to keep up is by reading the ski magazines and talking to the ski shop technicians. Get several opinions and decide every year if your gear is optimal.

9/ Best advice for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers?

The best advice for beginners is to take lessons from pros rather than friends. You will learn more and faster and lose fewer friends. For intermediate and advanced skiers my understanding is that occasional lessons from pros is still the best way to go.