Healthy Tahoe: Perform like the pros

Alan Barichievich, MS, PT

Winter sports are on everybody’s mind, and while you tune into broadcasts this month, you may wonder, “How do they do that without getting hurt?”

The truth is, before reaching the starting line, many top athletes use physical therapy as part of their training program, which allows them to maintain top form and fitness, and greatly reduces their risk for injury.

Alan Barichievich

You don’t need to be a professional athlete to take advantage of the many benefits of physical therapy. Injuries and overtraining can happen to anyone, and physical therapy is great for prevention and/ or rehabilitation. Athletes of all ages and athletic skill levels can use physical therapy to reduce pain, counteract imbalances, improve strength and mobility, and reduce the likelihood of injury — all things that affect how you play your sport or participate in your favorite activity, and how you move in daily life.

Overuse injuries are common in sports — especially skiing — so the key to staying healthy is to build a training program that targets any weak spots before they result in injury. How do you know if you have weak spots? A physiological analysis provides comprehensive information about your progress as you train. These tests can answer questions like: How quickly does your body recover? What is your target heart rate? How many calories do you need?

For winter sports athletes, lower extremity tests that assess balance, agility, and strength — all crucial for sliding on snow — can contribute to maximum performance, which is why they are considered a U.S. Ski & Snowboard standard.

Tests are used to measure muscle strengths and weaknesses, range of motion, left-right asymmetries, quad- to hamstring-strength ratio, and jumping and landing dynamics— providing data that can reveal weaknesses up front. The information provides tangible areas to improve upon, so a physical therapist or coach can develop an individualized plan to correct your body mechanics or technique, which may improve your ability in sport.

Injuries can be further prevented with off-season conditioning. Whether your goal is to be the best skier in a big mountain competition — or be able to keep up with your kids on the slopes— it’s important to condition your body throughout the year. By engaging in activities that demand strength, balance, coordination, and endurance, you “cross-train” your body for your sport. Hiking, trail running, biking, and surfing are excellent cross training for skiers. Pair that with strength training, mobility exercises, and flexibility, and come first snowfall, you’ll be ready to go.

Whether recreational or elite, sports medicine is an integral part of any athlete’s journey.

Top performance starts with understanding your body, and having a support system that helps you prepare both physically and mentally. Having a partner in sports medicine means having somebody who knows your body and your goals, who can react quickly if something needs attention.

Alan Barichievich, MS, PT, is the Director of Rehabilitation, Sports Medicine and Performance with Barton Health. Barton’s Center for Orthopedics & Wellness is acknowledged by U.S. Ski & Snowboard as a Certified Center of Excellence, offering training and education programs for all U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes. Physiological analysis and individualized performance and physical therapy programs are available to the community. For more information, visit

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