Prep to avoid injuries on the slopes

Physicians at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s orthopaedic sports medicine program remind winter weekend athletes that preparation is critical to avoiding injuries.

Getting in shape before hitting the ski trails is among the best ways to prepare, especially if you haven’t been skiing in a while, says Dr. Robert Dimeff, professor of orthopaedic surgery, pediatrics, and family and community medicine at UT Southwestern. Dr. Dimeff advises exercises to strengthen the body’s core and legs –particularly the abdominal, lower back, hip and lower leg muscles. This may include abdominal crunches, back extensions, squats, lunges and balance exercises.

“Any exercise regimen, however, should be coordinated with your primary care physician, or a sports medicine specialist for more advanced athletes, to be sure it takes into account your health history,” says Dr. Dimeff, who advises professional athletes and teams in addition to amateur and weekend athletes.

Injuries occur more frequently when skiers are fatigued, such as the end of the day or the end of a ski vacation week, as well as in the early morning, when skiers have not yet warmed up, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. Aerobic workouts can assist in improving stamina and reducing fatigue, though again, it’s important to talk with a physician first, Dr. Dimeff says.

Other tips to help prevent or lessen the severity of common ski-related injuries include:

  • If new to skiing, take time with a professional instructor to learn techniques for moving, stopping and falling, and pick a starter slope that’s aimed at others also learning to ski.
  • Check to make sure that ski bindings are working properly prior to vacations, and then perform a self-release test at the start of each day. Check with ski shop experts if you are uncertain of proper settings.
  • Wear a helmet to help protect against head injuries, which are the most common cause of death in ski-related accidents.
  • Drop ski poles when you fall to avoid thumb and hand injuries, one of the most common among skiers, according to the sports medicine society.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs, including stimulants, which can interfere with performance, slow response times or make you jittery or nervous.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine.

 Media Contact: Russell Rian