Q: I am a 34-year-old ski junkie with an agonizing shoulder problem. For the past two years, as soon as I start my ski season, I've experienced pain in my rear deltoid, across the trapezius muscle, on into the neck. The majority of the pain is on the right side.
On nights after skiing all day, I wake up every hour unable to find a comfortable position for my arm. The pain increases if the arm is kept still too long. During the day, along with intense soreness, I feel sharp needlelike sensations in the muscles. The pain usually leaves about four to five weeks after ski season.
I have gone from skiing four times a week to once a week and I hate that. I slalom and wakeboard. Boarding seems to be the worst on my shoulder. Could it be the pull on my shoulders when I'm getting up, the jerk from slack rope on wakeboard tricks, or am I getting too old? During the off-season, I train with weights and the problem slowly goes away, so I'm sure it's not a lack of strength. My family doctor told me I need to stop skiing. Please give me some much better advice.
A: Please understand that without examining you, I can only go on what you write. To stop skiing is not necessarily the answer since we are not certain what the problem is. What you are describing sounds like a chronic tendinitis from an injury to your shoulder and surrounding musculature. Most muscle pulls or tears, if not rehabilitated correctly, will lead to this condition.
Areas with tendinitis will increase in pain with rest (usually during the night or early morning), decrease with use and fatigue quickly with strain. Skiing puts tremendous pressures on the posterior shoulder muscles. Wakeboarding, due to skiing position, can put even more rotational torque on the shoulder girdle. What have you done about it besides lay off and lift weights? Whenever you have an injury to a muscle, it is important to rehabilitate the muscle correctly. Also, proper warm-up and beginning the season slow and smooth are a must. Seek out a sports medicine therapist or sports chiropractor to evaluate and treat this injury. Also, next time you ski, video your ski runs, including your starts. This will show your doctor/therapist any biomechanical faults or extra strains you may be placing on your right shoulder and surrounding musculature. – Terry Weyman, D.C.
Q: I'd like to try shoe skiing this year. A buddy and I have some blank skis, and are wondering whether low- or high-wrap bindings work best, and which brand you prefer. Any tips?
A: It's really a matter of personal preference when it comes to shoe skis. You can buy skis with bindings already set (usually not the most high-quality outfits), but I recommend choosing any pair of slalom or jump bindings in which you feel most comfortable. You probably aren't going to want to spend a ton of money on shoe skis, so high-end boots are probably out. I've been using low-wrap Cypress Gardens bindings for over 10 years, and I've found them to be both comfortable and supportive – and cheap. – Bob Schwister, Tommy Bartlett Water
Q: I'm having trouble with consistency on my side slides. Any tips?
Deer Park, Texas
A: If you're on two skis, concentrate on your ankle control. (Skis tend to be squirrelly.) If you're on one, remember to: 1) keep your elbows pointed toward your hips; 2) push your hands and wrists down – they can never be too low; 3) keep your knees, torso and head aligned directly over your feet; 4) press your knees forward to place more weight on the ball of your foot; 5) maintain a head-up position; and 6) do not jerk the trick. Turn into the trick by keeping your shoulders and head facing the boat. – Amy C. Diehl, AWSA certified instructor
Q: I feel pretty comfortable in the backward position and crossing the wakes, but every once in a while I get pulled out the front for a nasty head-slapper. I don't think I'm catching a heel. What could it be?
A: Here's a tip for your boat driver. When he's pulling you, make sure he's driving in a straight line. Second, have him drop the speed 1-3 mph from your normal two-foot, forward speed. You'll settle in a little more and be more comfortable – your spine will thank you. If the speed drop doesn't stop the falls, try bending your knees more and keeping your arms out straight, butt out and chest up. – Ron Scarpa, two-time world champion
Weak Wake Front-to-Backs
Q: I'm making my wake front-to-backs, albeit a little inconsistently. About once every four tries, the tail digs in on the landing. Help!
“Iron” Mike Lustumbo
Lake Orion, Michigan
A: Your tail keeps plunging because there is too much weight shifted onto it. As you rotate to the right in mid-air (going from right to left), lean forward and pull the handle into your left hip. Hold the handle to your left hip and drop the front of the board by applying downward pressure with your knees. As you hit the water upon landing, hold the handle to your left hip and keep your weight forward. – Kent McMillan, former national champion