Like it or not, we're all getting older. Our knees creak and our bodies ache, but not enough to keep us off the slopes. So, if you're past your prime and you still love to ski, you'll be pleased to learn there are a number of new advances that will help to keep you on the mountain. Many of them have been designed by professional ski instructors, orthopedic surgeons, and physical therapists who understand how important it is to keep aging skiers skiing.
Until recently, orthotic devices made to help those with sore or unstable knees existed solely as knee braces. Knee braces come in a wide variety of designs - some hard and some soft - and help with the most common structural defects such as worn cartilage, torn anterior cruciate ligaments, poor-tracking patellas, and other afflictions. The Brace Shop sells a complete line of hard and soft braces. On the inexpensive side, Cho-Pat sells the Dual Action Knee Band that is designed to alleviate the symptoms of runner's knee, irritated kneecaps, and Osgood-Schlatter's disease. The brace sells for $24.95 and is available in five sizes. ProCare sells a simple Patella Strap that helps to relieve patellar tendonitis and chrondromalacia by applying pressure to the patellar tendon.
There are a number of "unloading" braces that prevent wear and tear on the knee joint that's common with the aging process, for skiers who suffer from arthritis. A little pricier than the Cho-Pat, unloading braces like the Bledsoe Thruster and the DonJoy OAdjuster cost around $700 but offer substantially more support for tired knees.
Magnetic braces offer not only external support for knees but are also designed to improve circulation and induce relaxation by using magnetic fields. The Dr. Bakst Magnetic Knee Brace and the Bioflex Magnetic Knee Support are comfortable, neoprene braces that work through magnetic embedded into the brace material. Each sells for around $50.
Elastic knee braces comfort the knee joint by offering support, while maintaining complete range of motion. The MedSpec DynaTrack Patella Stabilizer is specially designed to keep the kneecap tracking in the proper position, strengthening the knee.
A fairly recent innovation for aging skiers is the CADS system. CADS stands for "Constant-force Articulated Dynamic Struts" and is a system of cables and elastic bands that help to "unload" pressure on the knees caused by the force of gravity. CADS users wear a harness underneath their ski pants that is connected to a cable that wraps over one end of a specially patented rod and is secured to a stout elastic band that is secured to their ski boot. When the skier flexes his or her knees, the CADS system unloads some of the downward pressure that is responsible for knee pain. Endorsed by leading medical researchers and the world-famous Steadman-Hawkins Orthopedic Group in Vail, Colorado, CADS have helped many continue to enjoy skiing long after their joints give up.
A relatively new offering from CW-X.COM uses a specially patented "Conditioning Web" to provide targeted support on muscles and joints. The Conditioning Web uses compression technology to facilitate circulation, venous return that is reputed to reduce lactic acid build-up, while minimizing muscle soreness. CW-X makes an entire line of supportive under and outwear that includes Stabilyxtights, Ventilatory tights, pro tights and shorts, expert tights and shorts, Versatx tights, tops, and more.
The latest help for tired knees is the Opedix support system. While Opedix tights may look like they use the same technology as the CW-X system, there are distinct differences between the two. The Opedix system helps to unload the force of gravity on joints similar to knee braces. It accomplishes this by using a unique type of fabric that helps to distribute the stress and minimizes the load on the medial aspect of the knee joint. Opedix tights are available in four sizes in men's and women's running and snowsport models.
Fortunately, aging skiers now have a number of great products to help them stay on the mountain. Regardless of which product you use, be sure to check with your physician or physical therapist to determine which is the best one for you.