Knee Pain and Skiing

The most common problems concerning knee pain and skiing

Below are some of the most common knee problems that skiers experience. The list is intended to be an explanation to people who are bothered by minor knee pain when skiing.  You should always consult a physician to get a proper diagnosis. Especially if the pain is accompanied by swelling or if you had a bad crash or twist in the knee.

Patellar PAIN

Ski related: This pain usually comes when skiing too much in the back seat or when skiing a little stiff legged (not absorbing bumps etc.). Make sure you balance your weight along the whole foot and not just on the heel when skiing.
Conditioning: Improper conditioning of the thigh muscles can cause this type of knee pain. Make sure you get those legs going before season start. One-legged standing exercises are the most efficient as in my ski workout videos.

Pain on the inside of the knee at the joint line

Ski related:  This pain can arise from forcing your turn too much when skiing, pivoting your ski rather than carving. You will tend to do this, if you don’t trust your skis will turn out of the fall line as fast as you want it to. In stead of edging the ski and pushing against the snow, you try to force the skis around by pivoting your knee and ankle.
Conditioning: Work your vastus medialis (the muscle to the inside above the knee). Reverse step-ups are great to fire up this muscle. If the knee tends to lock, have the meniscus checked by a physician.

Pain on the inside of the knee cap

Ski related:  This is most often due to muscular imbalances or weakness and not directly ski-related. It can be accentuated when skiing though because the imbalance will cause some pulling in the knee cap as the muscles contract.
Conditioning: It is often a symptom of an imbalance caused by weak  external hip rotators and a strong vastus lateralis and tight IT-band that pulls the knee cap laterally. Strengthen the vastus medialis (reverse step-ups is my favourite for this) and stretch the IT-band to rebalance. A foam roller is a must have to stretch to the IT-band!

Pain BELOW ON THE INSIDE

Ski related: If you ski with your weight equally dispatched on the two skis, you may experience the sensation of having two drivers. This puts the adductors to work to avoid the skis either spreading too far or crossing. If you have more weight on your the ski to the outside of the turn, this will be the one driver and the other ski will follow more naturally.
Conditioning:Work your adductors by doing lateral leg exercises.

Pain behind the knee

Ski related: Skiing is about balance and stability. If you have a poor balance on your skis or you challenge it by going in uneven terrain such as skied up off piste and moguls you may experience some soreness behind the knee.
Conditioning: Behind the knee we have the popliteus muscle and the attachments of the soleus muscle (the calf). By incorporating proprioceptive aspects into your pre-skiing training (exercises that challenge your balance), you can prevent some of this soreness.

Pain below the knee on the outside

Ski-related: When trying to avoid a fall forward, for instance if you ski into a slower surface and your upper body wants to continue while your skis are going much slower, your hamstrings and the muscles of the lower leg have to react fast to prevent your legs from over-stretching and to keep your hips fairly extended. Such a stretch can generate a soreness at the attachments of these muscles just below the knee. This pattern often happens in slushy snow.
Conditioning: Make sure to strengthen the posterior chain of your legs in skirelevant positions. After skiing it is a good idea to stretch the hamstrings and soleus muscles.

If you want to be proactive against knee pain and skiing, it is essential to do a balanced series of ski specific conditioning exercises. You can get my tried and approved 30-minute ski workouts here.
Ski fitness against knee pain and skiing

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Get Fit To Hit The Snow is a series of follow-along training videos with complete sessions of exercises for skiing to improve your leg strength and knee stability for skiing situations.

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