Fat skis are hurting our knees

17th February 2015, by Abi Butcher

Fat skis were originally designed for powder skiing but are now more generally used

Fat skis were originally designed for powder skiing but are now more generally used

Researchers in America are warning that fat skis could be damaging our knees. Originally designed to float in deep powder and for off-piste skiing on lesser gradient slopes, fat skis are now being used across the mountain by all types of skiers — and it’s having a knock-on effect on our joints warns Professor John Seifert at Montana State University.

Prof Seifert spent four years studying the effects of using fat skis. He monitored muscle and joint strain on skiers using leg sensors and concludes that the force needed to turn skis wider than 80mm underfoot on hard-packed snow puts an undo amount of stress on knee and ankle joints.

“It appears right now there is a threshold in the mid 80s, and an additional lever arm,” said Prof Seifert. “That additional lever arm provides extra torque, and is causing sore knees and ankles.”

Prof Seifert also found that, because fat skis can’t make sharp turns in the same way as a narrow racing ski, we are forced into longer periods of flexing for ankles and knees. His findings will be used as a talking point at the annual International Society for Ski Safety meeting in Cortina, Italy, next month.

The knee is the most common joint injured among skiers, but numbers are still small — approximately three per thousand days skiing. UK orthopaedic knee surgeon Andy Taylor, from Spire Liverpool Hospitals’ Bone and Joint Centre, said there are ways we can minimise the risk before going on holiday.

“Any skiing injury may be just related to bad luck and the majority occur at relatively low speed where a fall may not be significant enough for the skies to release,” he said, adding that getting fit for six to eight weeks before a ski trip, stopping skiing when tired, having equipment professionally fitted and keeping alcohol intake low will all help reduce the risk of ski injuries.

At the beginning of the season Where to Ski and Snowboard teamed up with expert physios James Vickers and Rob Madden to produce some ski and snowboard-specific exercises. Click here to watch the videos.

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