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Ask the Professor: Knee Therapy

Fall Line
posted: 11/20/2000
by Stu Campbell

I had knee surgery in September and am still nervous about taking to the snow again. Last spring I tried skiboards and they felt easier on my knees. Should I start on them rather than regular skis?
Butch Meyer
Destin, Fla.

It depends on what your technical strengths are. Skiboards are usually 90-110 cm long. Good skiers and racers train on them because they make you a more precise skier. But to ride such short-edged devices well requires good balance. Because of their short length, it's easy to topple forward or back.

Another downside of riding skiboards is a phenomenon known as "terminal wobble." Unless you pressure them just right, they oscillate. And the more you tense up, the worse it gets. The outcome can be a flailing crash-something you don't need post-surgery.

It doesn't sound as if you faced either of these challenges, but I'd still be inclined to recommend you start out on shorter regular skis, on the easiest bunny slope. Make gentle turns at slow speeds. If your balance is a little shaky, the extra length in front of and behind your boot will help you feel secure.

If your knee starts to act up, rest it. Then try the skiboards, using poles, which can act as crutches, just in case. I suspect that after a short time you'll be itching to get back on regular shaped skis. Skiboard specialists ride backward and forward, do grabs and perform spectacular tricks. But most mortals see these "pocket skis" as a diversion, a way to get around the mountain easily or as a technical training tool. In your case, they may be a form of rehabilitation. But I'd guess that over the long term, they will probably not be your primary means of on-snow recreation.

Even if you're doing rehab and the knee is strong, it's natural to be tentative about getting on snow following an injury or knee surgery.
-The Professor

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