16 Colorado ski resorts using ACL injury prevention program
December 19, 2008
SolVista Basin Ski Patrol Manager Anthony Clark knows what it’s like to have an ACL injury ” or tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee.
During the first run of the first day of a European ski trip 18 years ago, Clark blew out his knee.
“I was going through the powder, jumped on hard pack and I’m sure I was in my back seat,” he said. “I heard a pop. I thought it would get better but it never did. There was no strength left in it.”
At the time, knee-ligament surgery had not yet advanced, so Clark rehabbed like mad.
It paid off. Through hard work he recovered about 98 percent of his knee strength.
Now in his eighth year of a ski career, Clark plans to teach other SolVista employees how to prevent the most common injury in skiing.
According to statistics from National Ski Association, blown-out knees account for 30 percent of ski injuries, and skiers are 365 times more likely to blow an ACL than the general population.
The injury continues to be a liability for the ski industry, with an employee’s average ACL injury claim costing anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000, with associated costs in hours out of work and re-training.
Colorado ski businesses are spending anywhere between $350,000 to $700,000 in claim costs a year just from ACLs, according to information from leading ski-area insurer Pinnacol Assurance.
And ACL injuries are not just a skier’s nemesis. More and more injuries are occurring in the snowboard community, Pinnacol officials say, with one ACL snowboard injury already reported this year from a policyholder.
These stats have motivated the ski industry along with insurance companies to step up ACL education.
Pinnacol, for example, is entering its second season presenting a full-fledged teaching program to ski areas. Resorts are adopting the program to instruct employees about ACL injuries and how to avoid them.
Already 16 Colorado ski resorts are using the ACL prevention program, according to Pinnacol.
Clark presented the 30-minute injury-prevention class to SolVista employees during orientation this season.
“The cost to put this program together is the cost of probably less than one ACL treatment,” said Ellen Sarvay, a safety consultant with Pinnacol.
The ACL video and instruction program is also being adopted by Winter Park’s National Sports Center for the Disabled.
Clark recognizes advances in skis and better-release binding equipment may have helped to curb injuries in recent years, and more people are becoming aware of the inherent ACL risks tied to skiing.
But debilitating health care costs today are a great motivator for preventing these injuries.
What causes injuries
ACL injuries generally occur when the foot is fixed, such as in a ski boot, and the upper bone of the knee keeps twisting, tearing the knee ligament.
According to Pinnacol’s “Save Your Season” video, skiers should first learn to recognize the “danger zone”: When body position is off-balance to the rear ” known as the “back seat.”
In this regrettable position, hips are below knees, the hands are back, the shoulders are back, and weight is on the back of skis or snowboard.
Instead, skiers should strive for an athletic hip-wide stance. With new shaped ski
technology, it’s important to build angles with the hips rather than the ankles as done
in the past. When turning, the knee should align between the foot and hip.
Instruction on ACL prevention also suggests to avoid the “Big Move” while falling.
While letting the fall happen, try to keep arms and hands forward, feet together.
And when down, stay down until reaching a stop.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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