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Common Skiing Injuries of the Knee

Skiing continues to be a popular winter sport with millions of people hitting the slopes every year.

Like any sport, skiing carries the risk of injury – especially knee injuries. On average, knee injuries account for one-third of all skiing injuries.

Some common knee injuries on the slopes include:

ACL Tear (Anterior Cruciate Ligament):

If you hear a “popping” noise when you fall, or the knee twists suddenly, you may have an ACL tear. It will cause significant pain and swelling. Partial ACL tears may not require surgery and should improve with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE protocol). However, a complete ACL tear is a major knee injury and should be evaluated within the first week by an orthopedic surgeon.

MCL Tear (Medial Collateral Ligament):

Together, ACL and MCL injuries account for one-third of all skiing related injuries (1). The MCL helps control the sideways movement of the knee and is typically the result of an impact to the outside of the knee. An MCL tear will not cause the “popping” noise like the ACL but will swell and cause some pain on the inside of the knee.

Meniscal Tears:

The meniscus acts as a lubricant for the knee joint and absorbs some of the force placed on the knee when we move. If you suffer a meniscal tear on the slopes, you will typically feel pain in the area of the tear. Swelling and tenderness usually occur within a few hours. If the tear is significant, the knee can have a feeling of instability.

According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine skiing-related injuries are most likely to occur on:

  • the first day of the ski week
  • in the early morning when the skier is not warmed up
  • in the late morning and late in the day when fatigue sets in
  • at the end of the vacation week when the skier is tired

Like any sport, skiing does come with the risk of injury, but listening to your body can help you enjoy the sport. Watch for signs of knee injury after a fall and don’t push yourself when your body is tired. As you hit the slopes this season, stay safe and enjoy the fun!

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