Things have been a little quieter in physiotherapy world for a few weeks, as colder temperatures and horrible weather have meant less activity in the community in general, and therefore less acute injury. Even chronic arthritic pain and inflammatory conditions tend to settle, as the swings in barometric pressure are less severe. Sure, we can all get a bit of an ache when we get cold, but it often isn’t bad enough to go and see a physio about, when a hot-pack, thermal underwear or snuggling up by the fire will suffice. The old saying that you can “catch a chill” in your back/neck is simply false.

This quiet period is about to come to a screeching (or sliding in this weather) halt. This time of year we experience the influx of injuries from

  • 1) Ski Season
  • 2) Football/Netball Finals
  • 3) Gardening Season (early spring)
  • 4) Tour de France inspired Cycling excesses

*Photo credit: Mark Tsukasov photography, Mt Hotham 2015

Ski Season

The Victorian ski season is a fickle animal, it teases, flaunts and then BANG it’s on like Donkey Kong! Due to this many people (the author included) flock to the mountains and cram in as much skiing as their poor bodies and wallets will allow, in the few short weeks of glorious white stuff. The sudden increase in load on knees, back, and arms can be more than many bodies can bear, let alone the potential risk of injury from high speed fall, catching an edge, slipping on ice, or not making the jump (above). Some tips for the wise if you’re heading up:

  •  Do some squats. If nothing else, skiing and boarding put an enormous load on your quadriceps, as you bounce down a mountain trying to absorb the shock of bumps, jumps and turns. Do wall sits for 30sec, 8-10 reps, or just hold the back of a chair and do squats while you watch TV. This needs to happen three to four weeks before you go AT LEAST, the night before is a waste of precious sleep before shredding. (more here)
  • Wear a helmet. Think about it, you’re on waxed planks, sliding on a friction-less surface, down some of the steepest terrain in the country. Between trees and large poles.

Football/Netball Finals

The classic presentation is this – “I’ve had this niggling hammy for the last six or seven weeks, and I have a week off then go back and it feels good until I lead out for a mark/pass, then it goes again”. Now it is almost “finals time” and the physio is expected to magically fix this so that the player is 100% for finals. Unfortunately soft tissue healing time is 4-6 weeks at least, and no amount of magic speeds this up. We can sometimes return players to competition early from ligament sprains, as ligaments are non-contractile tissue, meaning that the only way to re-injure the ligament is to put the same direction of force through the injured ligament again, which is often managed with heavy taping/bracing – but muscle is a different story. There is no way to stop an injured muscle from re-tearing in the rigorous, explosive contraction of sporting performance.

  • – Have your injuries assessed early. Good management can significantly improve recovery rate, and reduce incidence of re-injury.
  • “A stitch in time saves nine”, which means the same as “a week or two out now saves missing 6-12 weeks and all of the finals”

Gardening Season

I LOVE winter. Not only does it snow (see above) but there are about 5-6 weeks where I don’t have to mow the lawns, prune trees, weed, spray, or do anything other than wander through the veggie garden and pick some broccoli. This changes very swiftly in late August and September, when increased soil temperature and rain means PROLIFIC growth. Since most people haven’t maintained “garden fitness” we always see a spate of gardening backs and shoulders, swollen knees and sore necks.

See this post for solutions, and consider products like “Grandpa’s weeder” which allows you to pull out weeds standing up, foam kneeling pads with handles, and Electric tools instead of petrol (lighter).


Tour de France

It’s amazing how in the worst time of the year to ride in the Dandenongs we see such a large increase in road cycling. It’s a horrible confluence of events, as most people put on some winter layers to hibernate, and those winter layers should never be squeezed into BMC lycra suits. Why spend $10k on a bike that’s 1kg lighter, when you could lose 10-15kg of fat for free? Anyway, to avoid injury to your knees make sure you do some VMO exercise, which consists of doing normal type Quadriceps exercises (squat, lunge, step ups etc), but with your foot turned out and knee tracking over the inside of your big toe. This causes the inner quad muscle to work really hard to pull the knee cap back into the middle of the groove on the front of your knee, and helps prevent patella tracking issues. If this fails, see your physio to learn how to tape your knee cap.