Feb 10, 2015

Proper training is important to prevent or minimize injuries from winter sports. Skiing and snowboarding require strengthening your leg muscles, improving your flexibility and getting your CORE stronger.

CORE muscles stabilize the spine. They help transition forces from the legs to the torso. In the low back, these are the abdominal muscles, specifically the transverse abdominus muscle and the paraspinal muscles in the back, the multifidi. From a spine perspective, CORE strengthening is the key to protecting the back during sports activities, and preventing flare-ups of existing back problems as well as new injury.

CORE strengthening can be done at home, with a physical therapist, or at the gym. Although most people can learn how to perform them well, it’s often difficult to know how strong is strong enough. In other words, what level do you need to reach to minimize injury and get the most out of your sport?

Shirley Sahrmann’s grading system can help you determine how strong your CORE is. The system uses five levels to categorize CORE muscle strength. The higher the level achieved, the stronger the CORE. The levels begin with simple abdominal muscle bracing and feedback. Level 5 is the most difficult. It requires that you can stabilize your spine while taking the legs through a large range of movement.

The more you progress in your sport, the higher the level of CORE stability you need to avoid injury. In addition to a strong low back, you will also need sport specific conditioning prior to heading to the slopes. In my opinion, conditioning should start about 8 weeks prior to the winter sport season.

Source: Sahrmann, SA. Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. St. Louis, MO: Mosby. 2002.