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Skiing Injuries: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Exercises

November 22, 2023 by Rebalance Toronto

physiotherapy and chiropractic treatment for skiing injuries in TorontoIt’s that time of year again! The first snowfall is just around the corner, and soon we’ll be hitting the slopes for some fresh powder or jamming out in the terrain park. There is no winter hibernation for ski enthusiasts! So dust off those skis, get them in for a tune up, but don’t neglect your most important piece of equipment – your body – it might need a tune up too!

It’s that time of year again! The first snowfall is just around the corner, and soon we’ll be hitting the slopes for some fresh powder or jamming out in the terrain park. There is no winter hibernation for ski enthusiasts! So dust off those skis, get them in for a tune up, but don’t neglect your most important piece of equipment – your body – it might need a tune up too!

Downhill skiing can be very demanding on your body. Skiing requires a lot of dynamic stability, meaning you need to be able to stay stable and maintain your balance while moving and changing positions rapidly. There may be some unexpected bumps or pitch changes throughout your run, so you want to ensure your body can adapt to this and you can maintain your balance to avoid a fall.

Coordination is also key. You need to be able to coordinate your lower and upper body for turning, while also maintaining control of your ski edge and pole action.

Strength, power, endurance, and agility will certainly factor into skiing as well. Skiing will really work your core and legs; especially the gluteal, quadriceps and hamstring muscles.

Lastly, range of motion is important so your body can adopt the postures necessary for skiing. Targeting your thoracic and lumbar spine, hips, knees, and ankles is especially important.

As with all sports, injuries can be an unfortunate occurrence, and downhill skiing is no exception.

Common Skiing Injuries that our Physiotherapists Treat


Whiplash is caused by a forceful, quick back-and-forth movement of the neck that can result from a fall, especially at higher speeds.

Shoulder Subluxation/Dislocation

Usually caused by falls, although this can also happen when your pole breaks through the crust of the snow and gets stuck, causing a forceful pull on the shoulder joint as your body keeps moving, but the pole remains planted.

Skier’s Thumb

This is an injury to one of the ligaments of the joint at the base of your thumb – the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint. Skier’s Thumb can result from falling on an outstretched hand with your pole in the palm of your hand. Poles are necessary for pushing across the flats, attacking moguls, and carving with finesse, but be careful of hanging on to your poles when experiencing a fall.

Knee Ligament Injuries (MCL, ACL, Meniscus)

Also known as “the terrible triad”, this injury is quite commonly seen with plant and twist injuries to the knee, which can occur in skiing when the tip of the ski catches and the leg gets pulled and twisted out from underneath you, resulting in a fall.

Fractures and Sprains

Some of the more common fractures seen in ski injuries are collar bone and wrist fractures. If you are more of an adrenaline seeker, for whom step ups and drops are a regular part of the fun, then you can also be at risk for compression and burst fractures. These commonly occur at the spine, the heel (a bone called your calcaneus), and knee joint line (tibial plateau, femoral condyle).

How can Physiotherapy help with the Recovery and Prevention of Skiing Injuries?

In the acute stage, physiotherapy aims to protect the injured body part, decrease symptoms, and allow for relative rest. A brace, splint or sling may be indicated depending on the injury. Following the acute stage, physiotherapy will focus on regaining range of motion, strength, balance, and eventually a controlled and gradual return to sport.

As you have noticed, a lot of the aforementioned injuries result from a fall. Having a good dynamic warm up routine before your first run can help you get ready for the slopes ahead. This may include:

  • body weight squats
  • walking lunges (backwards and/or forwards)
  • walking lunges with rotation (i.e. lunge and rotate your torso while engaging your core)
  • hip hinge (slight bend in your knees, keeping a neutral spine and engaged core, bend forwards at the hips)
  • backwards walk with a hamstring stretch
  • side to side skier hops
  • Remember, your first run should always be a warm up run on easier terrain

Additionally, a comprehensive strength and balance routine done on a regular basis throughout the season can also help with injury prevention.

Walking lunge with rotation

This will work your abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Step forwards into a lunge with your front and back knees bending to 90 degrees. Rotate your torso towards the side of your lead leg. Keep your knees in line with your toes to prevent your knees from caving in. You can progress this by adding weight – a dumbbell or a kettlebell held in both hands in front of you, or in your hands at your sides.

Bridge with adductor squeeze

This will work your glutes and adductors (muscles of the inner thighs), which help keep your skis parallel. Lay on your back with a ball between your knees, squeeze your glutes and push through your heels to lift your hips up off the ground. Slowly return to the starting position, maintaining steady pressure on the ball.

Body weight squat with resistance band

This will work your glutes and quadriceps, and also get you into the skier squat position. Place a resistance band around your thighs just above the knees, and stand with your feet hip width apart. Sit back into a squat until your knees are bent to at least 90 degrees while maintaining steady pressure outwards against the resistance band. Keep your knees in line with your toes – do not allow them to cave inwards.You can progress by adding a side step while in the squat position, and/or adding a weight in your hands in front of you.


This will work your core. Secure a resistance band above shoulder height (you can close it in a door). Stand up tall so that the band is at your side, and hold the band in both hands with straight arms. Pull the band across your body, and squeeze your obliques (the side of the core) to rotate your torso. Focus on your torso doing the work as opposed to your arms.

Lateral skier jumps

This will work your gluteals, hamstrings and quadriceps, as well as start to target some more explosive power movements that will be needed to control your run down the mountain. Standing with feet hip width apart, push off on the outside leg, jumping sideways, and land on the other leg. Try to absorb your landing into a mini single leg squat motion.

Hip balance clock

Imagine a clock face around you. Standing on one leg, reach out and tap 1 o’clock with your other foot. Reset back center. Then reach out and tap 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, and so forth all the way around to 12 o’clock, each time resetting back to center. You can progress this by standing on foam, a bosu ball or a wobble board for added instability.

It is always important to see a physiotherapist and/or chiropractor so your own unique needs in rehabilitation or injury prevention can be addressed. This article is a general overview and guideline, but does not address your unique needs specifically.

If you are a beginner, intermediate or even advanced skier, having a ski lesson to start off your season can be very helpful in optimizing technique and form. Ski instructors are also great at showing you the hidden gems of the mountain!

Rebalance Toronto

Rebalance Sports Medicine is a multidisciplinary clinic in downtown Toronto offering physiotherapy, chiropractic, registered massage therapy, sports medicine, naturopathy, Pilates and more.

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Yonge & AdelaideRebalance Clinic Yonge Adelaide
110 Yonge Street Suite 905
Toronto, ON M5C 1T4
T: (416) 777-9999
E: [email protected]
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155 University Avenue Suite 303
Toronto, ON M5H 3B7
T: (416) 306-1111
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