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Staying healthy during ski season



By Dr. Jeff Daniels EBS Medical Columnist

Have you made an effort to prepare for the ski and snowboard season? Have you worked on your quads, done plenty of aerobic exercise, and kept the weight off during the offseason? If you want to get the most out of this winter, you need to be in good shape.

Being fit is one way to prevent injury in any sport, but especially if you ski and snowboard. Also, having common sense and knowing when to call it a day adds another measure of safety. You wouldn’t believe the numbers of accidents that occur on someone’s last run of the day. When we’re young, fatigue isn’t part of our vocabulary, but as we age it becomes an important factor that could mean the difference between a long, safe season and a season-ending injury.

Staying healthy during ski season also involves preventing illnesses that are more prevalent in winter. Catching influenza can take a whole month out of the winter season, and a flu shot is an easy, safe and effective way of avoiding this nasty infection.

For those of us over 50 years old, two other illnesses that can cut deeply into an enjoyable ski season are pneumonia and shingles. Although there is no perfect prevention for either of these afflictions, both have vaccines that will lower the chances of developing them.

Other ways to stay safe this winter involve protective equipment should we have an accident, the most important being a helmet. Manufacturers are making helmets better than ever before, and you should consider replacing an old one if it has any dings from previous falls. Although not as effective as we would like, wrist guards can cut down on the number of wrist fractures, especially in snowboarders.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a knee brace developed yet that will guarantee you won’t tear your ACL. Years ago, I read about the possibility of a brace that would prevent the magnitude of twisting that results in an ACL tear. However, it never made it off the drawing board.

For those with previous injuries resulting in unstable knees, a brace that has strong metal bars and joints on either side is the way to go. I see people walking around – and falling – with neoprene sleeves around their knees. I wish these really worked. Knee braces that work aren’t cheap, and most people can benefit from an off-the-shelf model that’s not custom made. If you don’t have a previous knee problem, I don’t recommend wearing a brace to prevent one.

For those of us “old folks” with chronically sore knees, one way to make the ski season more enjoyable is with a steroid shot into one, or both, knees. These shots can last all winter, and take away the pain of arthritic knees. They work for shoulders too.

I hope you all have a safe, happy, and healthy 2015-2016 ski season, and get in as many days as you hope for. The Medical Clinic of Big Sky will be in the Big Sky Resort Mountain Village ready to help every day of the winter season – as we have for the past 21.

Dr. Jeff Daniels has been practicing medicine in Big Sky since 1994, when he and his family moved here from New York City. A unique program he implements has attracted more than 700 medical students and young doctors to train with the Medical Clinic of Big Sky.

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