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Middle Age Water Skiing Safety

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  • Middle Age Water Skiing Safety

    In late summer of 2014, I started the thread about reaching middle age and wanting to slalom ski again. Well, it took almost a year, but I finally succeeded last summer. As the season of 2016 approaches, I am thinking more about how to enjoy this (and subsequent) years without incurring a significant injury. I know the time will eventually come that I hang up my slalom ski, but that day is not here yet.

    http://www.yorku.ca/alison3/waterskiing.pdf

    I happened across this study this morning, and it really gave me pause. It is a study of the distribution of waterskiing and wakeboarding injuries reported at ER’s in 2001-2003. If you are not a numbers geek, the net net net net is for water skiing: not surprisingly, the most prevalent injuries are to the lower extremities, and peak in the 20-24 and 40-44 age brackets. The 50+ age bracket (me) injuries reported drop off significantly, but so does the sample size. What you cant tell from this study is the frequency of injuries… I would love to see something like incidence of injury as a percent of “skier days” broken down by age groups (hopefully something more granular than 50+ too).

    My wife’s orthopedic surgeon gave me the stink eye when I told him about my slalom skiing adventures of last summer (he is a family friend as well). That meeting is what started me thinking about safety, and the study above confirmed what seems like common sense to me. I get that I am taking a significant risk (at 56). I accept that risk… but intend to do whatever I can to mitigate it for the coming season. Some things seem really obvious to me:
    • Weight loss: I am 10 lbs lighter than I was at the start of last season, but 10 more than I was a the close of last season. Ill shed that, and hopefully more before the slalom ski comes out in late April/early May.
    • Conditioning: As much cardio as I can possibly fit in. Avoiding slalom skiing when exhausted seems like a good idea.
    • Strength: My first inclination was lots of legs and chest exercise, but I really think core is probably even more important.
    • Probably the one I need the most focus on is flexibility. I work in a desk job, and winter is hell on flexibility. My hamstrings are much tighter now than they were last season. Have to get that fixed before I boot up.
    My sister in law tore her hamstring in her 40s. She never skied again. I don’t want to go there…
    For those in my age group, what do you do (or not do) to avoid major injuries? Anyone experience a significant injury? If so what could have been done to avoid it?
    1997 Crownline 182 BR
    5.7L Mercruiser Alpha 1

  • #2
    Hello Milehighjc,
    Been skiing seriously, ski course mainly, since my early thirties, now 57.
    I think you are on the the right track with some of your training,especially the weight management and cardio.
    Skiing is all pulling, getting cardio on a rowing machine kills two birds with one exercise.
    As far strength work, your core training is huge, chest not so much.
    As far as reduced reports for 50+, while that is partially attributable to less participation it also comes with not trying to do to much.
    If you make a bad turn and are not in good shape approaching the wake, LET GO, live to ski another set.
    Most importantly, give your wife's orthopedic the stink eye right back, they are probably 50lbs overweight and smoke like most of my Drs.
    Finally a good warm up and stretching before going out is always a good thing and for the start of the season ski within your abilities, it was a long winter!
    Gotta run, got on here to figure out why my outboard is not charging well.

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    • #3
      I'll turn 56 in sept. so right there with you.
      While I've been waterskiing for 48 yrs I think about this a lot. Especially in the Spring when I know getting back into skiing shape will bring some familiar pain.

      I say ski more. In ANY physical activity I think the most risky thing is to do it only occasionally. Especially if you used to do it at some higher level when younger. How much is MORE?

      If you "work out at the gym" does going once every two weeks count? I'd say you don't really work out. "I'm a runner" but only run 2 miles twice a month? Nah. "I'm a waterskier" but only get up twice that weekend once a summer when you go to the in laws cabin? Sounds dangerous.

      Frequency helps so much. Twice a week (in about anything - skiing, running.etc) but especially skiing, 1x a week and I am maintaining. 2-3x a week I am getting stronger. 5 times a week, not enough recovery and healing time.

      Is it safe? Nah, it's considered risk. Practiced and pushed to the edge on a regular basis.

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      • #4
        Last year I was in the gym 3-4 times a week in the spring, focused mostly on cardio and flexibility. As the season approached, I spent more time on core. Im late starting this year, but have been doing some cardio outside the gym. Regardless of whether I allocate time in the gym, I TRY to keep moving. Need to do better.

        I am still not trying the course (there isnt one to try at Horsetooth). Have not attempted in over 30 years, but if there was one available to me I would probably give it a go.

        "If you make a bad turn and are not in good shape approaching the wake, LET GO, live to ski another set." That... is good advice, and counter to my normal make up. My worst fall of last season was from me pushing the envelope, and trying to save an edge like I would have when I was 22. Not so much at 56.

        I agree that Frequency is a big deal. Im getting SOME form of cardio at least 4-5 times a week now. Last couple of weekends were snow skiing... and have started some pretty good yard work too (double advantage, yard looks better, and I get stronger). Im not a runner, but do get the dogs out for long walks (3-5 miles) at 3.5-4mph at least 4 days a week. Im committed to more gym time too mostly for core focus... increasing as the water warms up.

        I really worry about hamstrings - partially because of what happened to my SIL, but largely because I KNOW mine are tight. I work on it a LOT, but dont seem to get the kind of results I would like. I need to research some additional stretches to see how I can improve. I REALLY dont want a ham injury.


        1997 Crownline 182 BR
        5.7L Mercruiser Alpha 1

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        • #5
          At 46 stretching/yoga helps a lot, otherwise I stay pretty active year round doing something - downhill skiing, biking, waterskiing, walking the dog 5 miles a day. Other than that, waterskiing is a risk sport - stuff happens no matter how old you are. If you can train yourself to let go of the rope rather than try to ride out a lot of bad situations that'll go further than just about anything else.
          2012 Malibu VTX 5.7 Monsoon 350
          2009 Ram CC 5.7 Hemi

          www.oldjeep.com

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          • #6
            I'll be 61 in May of this year and learned to slalom ski about 4 years ago. Lots of good advice here. Just wanted to add that for me, if I get myself into a situation that I'm not comfortable with, or not quite sure how to handle, like oldjeep and others have said....let go of the rope!

            Also helps if the driver is an experienced slalom skier and is aware of your limitations.

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            • #7
              I tried skiiing (two skis) last summer after my eldest son finally felt comfortable driving the boat with a skier behind it. I was a decent water skier in my 20s, but that was 30 years ago. I almost got up, but my left ski caught water on the inside edge and the ski (and my leg) got pulled back sharply. It happened so fast there was no time to let go. One moment I was halfway out of the water, the next I heard a pop and I was laying in the water thinking I had broken my leg or my hip. As it turned out, I had torn 75-80% of my hamstring. It didn't require surgery, but rehab has taken forever. Almost a year later, that leg is not the same. The rehab folks say it probably never will be as strong (or pain free) as it was. Not coincidentally, I have come to the realization that water skiing is not going to ever happen again for me; the chances of re-injuring my hamstring are too great.

              My hat's off to you guys skiing and slaloming in your 50s and 60s. I'm really envious of you! But, please, be careful...
              Location: West Central Illinois, USA 1997 Larson 186 SEi Bowrider I/O Mercruiser 350 #0F747565 Mag Alpha One Gen II #1A270120 Transom and Deck Restoration Project on my '97 Larson Bowrider

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              • #8
                2 skis is scary
                2012 Malibu VTX 5.7 Monsoon 350
                2009 Ram CC 5.7 Hemi

                www.oldjeep.com

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                • #9
                  I'm 53, and me and my brothers still shore start and drop, jump the wake, and play hard. I never got the memo about slowing down.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Leardriver View Post
                    I'm 53, and me and my brothers still shore start and drop, jump the wake, and play hard. I never got the memo about slowing down.

                    I resemble that remark. I think Im old enough to know better, but young enough to try it anyway. I definitely recognize the risks associated with slalom skiing at 57, and I try to make sure I have done what I can to mitigate those risks, but I am not ready to stop living. My only regret is not having bought this boat earlier in my life so that I could have done more of this... but there were other priorities (homes, kids, college educations, etc etc). Im just thankful that I can still do it now.
                    1997 Crownline 182 BR
                    5.7L Mercruiser Alpha 1

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My uncle used to be a pretty big slalom skier. He only skis 1-2X a year now though. He will only ride on "his ski" and still runs 32mph. I saw him fall for the first time in my life when we went out on his 65th birthday. He is almost as aggressive as he was when I was a kid.

                      No point in giving up joy because your getting older. Your not old until you believe you are.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by samt View Post
                        Your not old until you believe you are.
                        Exactly. This year has not been as good as last for me. Have had way too many family emergencies resulting in last minute travel (in addition to my normal business travel schedule). The net is that I have not been able to get the conditioning work outs in that I did last year, nor have I had as many opportunities to ski. I have only been up on the slalom maybe 2 or 3 times this year, and I noticed immediately that impact of the lack of conditioning. Getting up is harder, and my stamina is nothing like it was last year. Compound that with another 10lbs, and it has been more of a struggle this year, and I am running out of season.

                        But I will NOT give up, and my conditioning effort over the off season will be much higher.

                        While I believe that we are only as old as we think we are, I also believe that it is imperative to work HARDER on conditioning the older we get.


                        1997 Crownline 182 BR
                        5.7L Mercruiser Alpha 1

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                        • #13
                          I don't feel old until I'm healing up One cracked rib and some torn muscle from crashing chest first into the center of the wake about 3 weeks ago, about another 3 weeks to go until I can get back on the ski. The Radar x-vest I was wearing helped some but not quite enough.
                          2012 Malibu VTX 5.7 Monsoon 350
                          2009 Ram CC 5.7 Hemi

                          www.oldjeep.com

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                          • #14
                            I know how you guys feel and I'm older! This is probably my last summer waterskiing, and I too, wish I would have tried single skiing years ago - I've had a boat for 20 years, but never wanted to even try to single ski. My hip is getting worse, and I have been able to ski this summer, our lake has been closed sing 8/6 for unhealthy bacteria and so we are done for the season.

                            I have read of people waterskiing after hip replacement surgery, but I've been reading up these past weeks and I really don't want to cause the hip to get lose or dislocate, so I am not sure I will even try. They say it takes a good year after surgery to even "think" about it, so we shall see. After ready all the problems others have had, basically exchanging one pain for another in most instances, I am going to try to hold off on any shots or surgery until I can no longer walk. Walking seems to be my problem, riding the bike I have no pain. Waterskiing doesn't hurt while doing it, but the day after is shooting pain for a week.

                            This will be my last season snowboarding also as just one fall can cause a dislocation, which you do not want. And I fall off the chair 50% of the time getting off as it is, and I would just KILL myself getting injured and have to have it replaced again, as even with insurance my out of pocket for each surgery will be $6,000 a year and I will eventually need 2 surgeries done.

                            Hubby fell waterskiing last month and bruised his rib - first time he'd ever done that - but it finally healed and he got 2 more weekends skiing with no problem before the lake closed.

                            Hope all had a wonderful summer - I did as much as I could with a bad hip!!!

                            Vicki
                            I learned to snowboard at 50
                            I learned to wakeboard at 53
                            I got up on a single ski at 54
                            What next?

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                            • #15
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                              oldjeep I bashed ribs on a sort of OTF a month ago. Not as much pain as cracked ribs 10 years ago, but hurt when I sneezed, coughed, did anything with my core... Which is everything in waterskiing. 4 weeks to not feel it. Best ski buddy that had hip replacement has moved to an HO binding where boots mount to a rail. In a fall, the rail released from the ski like a big alpine plate binding. Feet stay together and hip is protected. He took a year off skiing. Was super cautious for a year and is finally aggresive 58 yr old self. (Cross fit, spin class, bikes 40-60 miles s couple times a week)

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