Skiing is especially strenuous for the lower half of the body and most skiing injuries involve the knees. The knees can become damaged during skiing from overuse, not using the right technique or falling awkwardly. Beginners are 33% more likely to get injured than more experienced skiers, but older skiers are also susceptible to knee injuries because the knees can become weaker as you get older.
What is the Meniscus?
The meniscus are commonly known as cartilages and there are 2 in each knee attached to the tibia. They act as a lubricant for the knee joint, absorb some of the force that the knee joint is subjected to and help to keep the knee stable.
How Does a Meniscus Tear Happen?
The meniscus can become damaged if the knee suffers direct trauma and twists too sharply. It often occurs when the foot is in a fixed position, as it is when wearing ski boots. If the foot stays still with most of your body weight on it and the knee is slightly bent, the cartilage can become trapped between the femur and tibia if you twist your body too sharply when you are in this position, causing a tear. This injury affects novice skiers due to poor positioning of the knees and overusing muscles that aren't conditioned for skiing. It can also affect older skiers because over time the knees become less resilient, which means less force is required to injury them, making them more vulnerable to damage. Skiers are also more likely to suffer this kind of injury if they have had a previous knee injury.
What are the Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear?
You will feel pain in the area where the meniscus is torn and sometimes the back of the knee will feel tender as well. The knee will become swollen within a few hours of sustaining the injury. Depending on how bad the tear is, the knee may also feel unstable. It could give way or lock up – whereby the knee gets stuck so it can't fully straighten.
How Can You Protect Yourself Against a Meniscus Tear?
If you have had any type of knee injury in the past or suffer from osteoporosis for example, it is a good idea to take nutritional supplements such as glucosamine. This will give your body a bit of extra support and help your knees to be less vulnerable to damage. Doing pre-season training to strengthen and condition your muscles will also help to protect your knees. You should focus particularly on the thigh muscles and hamstrings.
While You're Skiing
Having increased muscular strength will pay dividends when you hit the slopes. It allows your body to relax more during skiing, which puts less pressure on the knee joints. It also helps you to maintain more control over your movements so you can cope better with sudden changes of direction on the uneven terrain of the ski slope and are less likely to twist your body awkwardly or fall over. Being sensible will also minimize the likelihood of becoming injured. If you feel tired, have a rest. Also, make sure you have lots of carbohydrates and fluids to keep your body energized and hydrated, because fatigued muscles and joints are more likely to get injured.
How is a Meniscus Tear Treated?
Applying an ice pack to the injured knee and taking anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by a doctor will initially decrease pain and swelling. Smaller tears may be healed with physiotherapy exercises that build up the muscles surrounding the knee joint. More substantial tears may require keyhole surgery, which is known as an arthroscopy, to remove some of the damaged meniscus. The surgeon will try to remove as little as possible to safeguard the future health of your knee joint.
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