Friday, March 16, 2018

Staying (David) Wise on the Slopes

By Jill Jonda, PT
The 2018 Olympic games have come and gone! As we sat in front of our television screens, watching elite athletes perform with skill, speed, and drive to win, a lot of us tend to want to get out there and try to channel our own Olympic skills. As we saw athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn, and David Wise swiftly ski down a slope or half pipe without missing a beat, we may have thought, “I can do that!” Those athletes make complex arduous maneuvers look effortless. Unfortunately, when people who may not be as skilled try things that Olympic athletes make look so easy and natural, we tend to see more injuries. Before you hit the slopes, it’s important to be aware of common injuries and how to prevent them.

Because of the structure of the ski boot, the angle it puts on the knee, and of course the variability in the terrain of the snow, one of the more common body regions injured while skiing is, in fact, the knee.  Some of the most common knee-related injuries associated with downhill skiing include medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain, anterior cruciate ligament  (ACL) sprain or tear, and meniscus tear. An injury to all three of these areas is often referred to as the “unhappy triad.”

That may sound pretty intense, but it’s no reason to cancel your trip and try to get your deposit back on your skis and helmet. If you want to have a good time and avoid the risk of injury, follow these steps listed below:

First, you want to understand your skill level.  All too often injuries occur because we end up doing too much too soon and get ourselves into quite a pickle.  If it’s your first time out in a while, take it easy and stay on the easier hills. Better yet, schedule a training session with one of the professionals and get a tune-up on your skills.

Second, it’s always important to warm-up before any type of physical activity, and is especially important for a demanding activity, such as downhill skiing.  A dynamic warm up will help to increase blood flow, prepare the nervous system for increased activity, and improve overall range of motion which all helps to reduce the risk of injury.

Third, it’s important to strengthen key muscles that help prevent aberrant movement of the knee. The hip abductor muscles (specifically, the gluteus medius muscle) help to stabilize the pelvis when weight is shifted onto one leg, which, in turn, prevents inward and torsional stresses on the knee.  If the femur bone becomes internally rotated and adducted (or “knock knee”), this causes a valgus force at the joint, which is the setting of most of these knee injuries. In the same way, the abdominal musculature is also essential in maintaining control and stability while skiing.  A strong core can help to block too much trunk displacement over one leg if you happen to “catch an edge” or lose your footing over a patch of ice and can prevent a fall.  Strong quadriceps and hamstring muscles also assist in demonstrating proper knee joint mechanics, especially as you squat closer to the ground to pick up speed as you ski down the slope.

Here are some options for strengthening exercises you can try before your next ski adventure:

Remember to always be safe and know your limits if you want to stay injury-free on the slopes.  If injury does occur, however, go see your physical therapist!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Fighting Inflammation with Food

by Liz Cascio,
Nutrition Specialist 
In honor of National Nutrition Month, we've invited LSF nutrition specialist and personal trainer Liz Cascio to be our guest blogger.

Inflammation is the body’s automatic security system: it activates when it recognizes anything that is foreign, such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. It can also be triggered by tissue trauma, like an ankle sprain or a scrape - the body sends white blood cells and other immune chemicals to help keep the injured area clean and promote healing. In healthy individuals, inflammation is a good thing!

However, sometimes inflammation occurs even when the body is not under threat - the body responds as if normal, healthy tissues are infected or somehow abnormal. As a result, the body's normally protective immune system can cause damage to its own tissues. Fortunately, studies have shown that the solution to chronic inflammation might just be in the produce section of your grocery store. Below you’ll find some of the most powerful inflammation-fighting compounds and the foods you can start incorporating today to reduce your risk of inflammation and other chronic diseases!

Powerful phytochemicals (or plant chemicals) – such as Vitamin C and E, lycopene, lutein, beta-carotene, and polyphenols – protect the cells from exposure to free radicals and can also inhibit resulting inflammatory reactions in the body. A good rule of thumb is to fill 2/3 of every plate with an assortment of brightly colored fruits and veggies, like leafy greens, bell peppers, citrus fruits, berries, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Eating this way ensures you will get all the antioxidants you need to fight inflammation while also leaving less room for the processed, nutrient-poor foods that promote it.

Omega-3 and Essential Fatty Acids
Experts recommend no more than a 4:1 ratio of Omega-6 (which increases inflammation) to Omega-3 (which decreases inflammation). To keep the right Omega-6 to Omega-3 balance, reduce or eliminate the use of vegetable oils, margarine, saturated and trans fat and choose whole plant sources of fat (avocados, nuts, seeds, and olives). Reduce or eliminate refined grains, choose grass-fed meats and wild caught fish whenever possible and load up on leafy greens and berries. For an extra boost of omega-3, skip the fish oil supplements and instead add 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax seed, chia seed, or English walnuts to get a day’s worth of Omega-3 and the added benefit of fiber and protein.

Nitric Oxide
Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodialator (or blood vessel opener), increasing blood flow throughout the body and protecting the blood vessels from oxidative stress and inflammation. Beets and leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, arugula, and spinach, are rich in dietary nitrates and nitrite, compounds that stimulate the production of nitric oxide in the body. Other nitric oxide-promoting foods include whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, and oats) legumes (lentils, beans, and peas), citrus, watermelon, and garlic.

Alkaline Balance
Studies have shown that foods high in acid – such as proteins – may promote inflammation and force the body to work harder to maintain its optimal pH of 7.4. Avoid low carb, high animal protein diets: limit animal protein consumption to 4-ounce servings 2-3 times daily. Opt for plant-based protein sources like legumes instead of meat regularly. Choose intact whole grains and starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes and hard winter squashes) instead of processed carbs. Fruits and vegetables (especially those that grow in the soil, like root vegetables and leafy greens) are high in minerals, making them generally high-alkaline foods.

Keep it whole, keep it healthy 
The bottom line is that the guidelines for an anti-inflammatory diet are the same as those we’ve all heard over and over again: fill your plate with brightly colored fruits and veggies and unprocessed carbs, and pass on the processed and junk foods, unhealthy fats, and too much meat. In the words of nutrition and food journalist Michael Pollan, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

For more information or personalized nutrition support, email Liz at