Knee pain·Orthosis·Sports injuries·Supports

Knee strain in competitive skiing

Swiss-Ski races with Bauerfeind

From Bauerfeind Life Magazin on 09.11.2022

In short Bauerfeind supports the Swiss Ski Association with medical aids as part of a medical cooperation. Riccarda Brand, a physiotherapist, has been supporting the Swiss-Ski women’s World Cup team in the downhill and super-G speed disciplines during the last four seasons. For the racers, an important training focus is on speed-strength, as the muscles need to react quickly to bumps and technical mistakes in order to prevent accidents. It is also crucial that the joints are stabilized by the surrounding muscles. Almost all ski racers have extensive medical histories that include orthopedic conditions and trauma surgery. Medical products such as braces are essential for them to continue their careers in professional sports. Despite the use of safety equipment, the high-speed disciplines involve a particularly high risk of serious accidents that can cause the entire range of consequential conditions. Only year-round training ensures the appropriate level of fitness and physical resilience. In their feedback on Bauerfeind products, the female athletes particularly appreciate the high quality, wearing comfort and fast service.

The 2022/23 Ski World Cup season began on October 23. Bauerfeind supports the athletes of the Swiss Skiing Association ‘Swiss-Ski’ with medical aids – in acute situations during competitions, but also throughout the year in the training and preparation phase. Riccarda Brand is a sports physiotherapist with Swiss-Ski and looks after the women’s World Cup team in the downhill and super-G high-speed disciplines. Bauerfeind life spoke with her about the special challenges women face in this high-octane sport.

life: What did you and the women’s Alpine team do during the summer?

Riccarda Brand: Preparing for World Cup races is a year-round task in the high-speed disciplines, meaning downhill and super-G. Strength and endurance training are part and parcel of the preparations for the season. I coach the five female athletes of the Swiss national team’s Mastery Speed Group. Of course, they live all over Switzerland – during the summer, this means that I’m in contact with them by phone or WhatsApp, I coordinate with the responsible regional physiotherapists, and I also go meet them, if necessary. In August, we were on the slopes in Zermatt and then at a training camp in Argentina for three weeks.

Riccarda Brand is a sports physiotherapist with Swiss-Ski and looks after the women’s World Cup team, which includes athletes like Jasmine Flury (top), in the high-speed downhill and super-G disciplines.

Is there a specific training focus for women in Alpine racing?

Riccarda Brand: We take great care to ensure that the joints are supported by strong surrounding muscles. Women tend to be more flexible than men. An important training focus is on speed-strength, as the muscles need to react quickly to bumps or technical mistakes in order to prevent accidents.

What does medical support for the athletes look like throughout the year?

Riccarda Brand: We work together in medical teams, which include doctors, functional coaches and physiotherapists assigned on a rotating basis. In case of an injury, the doctor and the physiotherapists on site take care of the acute treatment. If necessary, we then contact Dr. Walter Frey, a sports physician based in Zurich and Medical Director at Swiss-Ski. We then decide whether the athlete has to be picked up by helicopter or can be driven to Zurich. After that, it is assessed whether rehabilitation is needed or not. If Dr. Frey determines that a support or brace is appropriate, we discuss the different options and make a joint decision. He then orders the product directly from Bauerfeind Switzerland and adjusts it to the athlete with the help of a medical supply retailer/employee from Bauerfeind Switzerland.

Downhill racers blast down the slopes at breakneck speeds. What are the most common injuries?

Riccarda Brand: At these speeds, severe accidents occur, resulting in bruises all over the body and concussions. In the worst case, racers suffer torn ligaments and broken bones. Most of our high-speed athletes race with back airbags and cut-resistant undergarments, which adds a lot to safety. But even without accidents, the physical strain is extreme. Knee problems are a very big issue, but so is back pain, caused by the inevitable bumps and impacts.

You know all the injury stories in your team: how do the athletes deal with them in the course of their competitive careers?

Riccarda Brand: The racers in my team are already older, meaning between 28 and 31 years of age. They’ve all had a very long history of injuries, some have suffered two or even three torn cruciate ligaments. One of our racers, Joana Hählen, has an operated cruciate ligament on the right side, so she wears a GenuTrain S. It supports her knee externally thanks to its splints on the sides and the strapping. The exerted compression is comfortable and helps to activate the muscles.

What is the role of aids such as supports, braces and compression stockings in your work in general?

Riccarda Brand: We couldn’t do without braces. The stress points and injury patterns are similar, and this is exactly what the products are made for. By the way, during summer training, we played a lot of ball sports – and had some supination traumas where we needed to stabilize the ankles. I also often use compression stockings, after acute injuries or during the many long-hour trips in the car or on the plane. I always have some VenoTrain micro compression stockings with me, in the thigh-high variant. This product is used frequently, it is simply very comfortable to wear.

What feedback do you get from your athletes?

Riccarda Brand: They are very impressed with the quality of the products as well as with handling and comfort. The fast shipping service is also great. We order the products directly from Bauerfeind in Switzerland, and they’re in our mailbox the next day or the day after. Depending on the type of product, a physician or orthotist may be consulted during the fitting process. This collaboration is really valuable for us. By the way, it was a tip from Michelle Gisin in our team that initiated the partnership. She knows the Sports Knee Support and uses it for prevention. The sports product supports and relieves her knee joint during skiing. Michelle was also very satisfied with the VenoTrain micro compression stockings, which she wears when traveling, so she suggested that they might be something for all of us. This suggestion marked the beginning of our cooperation.

“Loosen up!”

Unlike the pros, most recreational skiers forget about the slopes during summer. But without proper preparation, skiers are prone to injury, and training should begin right when booking the ski vacation – at the latest.

3 tips for warming-up on the slopes from Swiss-Ski physiotherapist Riccarda Brand:

• The classic: squats

• For the spine: back arches

• And before you hit the slopes: with ski boots on your feet, lean on the ski poles and swing your legs.

Also, appropriate clothing and well-prepped skis are key. Early risers are rewarded with fresh slopes in the morning. And: a definitive ‘no’ to alcohol!

Images: Swiss-Ski, picture alliance/Eibner-Pressefoto/Eibner/Memmler

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