Wimbledon Clinics

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Skiing with an osteoarthritic knee by Claire Robertson

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Most people presume that some osteoarthritis means they should hang up their skis.  For many, this is inappropriate and an overreaction, and hence this blog explores the grey area between not skiing and skiing full days flat out.  Not only do you want to enjoy your ski trip but you want to minimise the risk of returning to weeks of a painful knee. This blog suggests some practical measures that may well help.

PREPARATION:  If you are in good physical ski condition, you are more likely to maintain a good position on your skis and absorb humps and bumps and icy snow.  Just like how I would recommend to a runner that they try and run light on their feet, I recommend you stay light on your skis, not crashing around on and off the back of moguls.  Good conditioning will help with an osteoarthritic knee and you might want to take slightly longer over your pre-season conditioning in order to avoid overstressing the knee.  Conditions should still bias anaerobic (i.e. pulse going up and down) and power work, especially for gluteal and quadriceps muscles.  If your knee is sore, then holding static positions can be kinder on the joint but still stress and work the muscle.  If training is proving to be tricky to get going, consider some training in water, which really should be fine.

DURING THE SKI TRIP:  During the ski trip, let people know that you have a tricky knee.  It is easier to stop for an extra hot chocolate if people you are with are empathetic to your situation.  Do you really need to do first and last lifts?  It may be how you have always skied but just shaving an hour off at the end of the day and making lunch slightly longer can help pace you and make the trip achievable.  Similarly, if you go with a big party or attend ski school, consider dropping down a level, so it is on the easy side.  You will get less tired, stay on your feet more and, hopefully, hold a better ski pose.

It may be an alien concept, but how about a day off midweek?  Resorts are better now in providing for non-skiers, and a gentle swim and read by the fire might just allow your knee to last the week.

If your knee is sore, understand and stock up before you go on appropriate anti-inflammatories and painkillers that you know work safely for you.  I often get asked whether joints should have heat or ice applied.  In this instance, the likely difficult scenario is an inflammatory reaction and, therefore, ice and elevation in the evening should be done.  Stiff muscles can respond to heat but do not put heat on your joint.

STRAPPING AND BRACING:  If you exercise successfully with a brace/strapping at home, then it is reasonable to use this skiing. Do try on in advance and figure out the logistics with long ski socks and long johns.  What I would not recommend is wearing a brace/tape for the first time ever on the first day of your holiday.  It might increase your pain, dig into you and be a thorough nuisance.

If you really are unsure if you want to book a ski trip because of your osteoarthritic knee, then consider a trip to a snow dome.  It really may well clarify the situation and also give you an opportunity to try out any strapping or braces you may have. For more treatment and diagnosis articles visit our blog.

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