Program determines who’s fit for the slopes | SierraSun.com

Program determines who’s fit for the slopes

Renee Shadforth
Photo by Colin FisherA skier gets physical at Tahoe Forest Hospital.
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Let’s face it. People who want to ski and snowboard are going to hit the slopes, whether they’re in top shape or not… right?

Well, Janet Brady, director of health promotions at Tahoe Forest Hospital, doesn’t think that’s such a good idea.

“It’s important for people to be pro-active about their health,” she said. “Even some people in their 20s need to get an assessment to maximize their performance in outdoor activities.”

In the spirit of preventing injury on the slopes, Tahoe Forest Hospital started the Fit to Ski/Board Program. Derived from the hospital’s Fit to Live and Fit to Hike/Bike programs, the winter activity counterpart has been around for four years.

Packages can include joint stability screening, skin cancer screening, blood pressure and heart rate test, cardiovascular fitness test, flexibility test, and strength and body composition tests. The exams are administered by nurse practitioners, exercise physiologists, physical therapists and other health professionals.

Fit to Ski/Board packages vary in price, $30 to $200, and composition to suit the specific needs of each outdoor enthusiast.

“Some people have seen a physical therapist because they had ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery in the past, but their cardiovascular level is questionable,” Brady said.

To test cardiovascular level, an exercise physiologist straps a backpack, called a VO2000, on the participant to read their respiratory rate while they run on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike.

Skin cancer screening is another of the program’s valuable assets, Brady said, especially for younger participants.

“I hate to say it, but we see a lot of people come through this program with skin cancer, and they didn’t even know it,” she added.

If the examiner finds a serious problem, they will give the participant an appropriate referral.

“The biggest benefit of this program is that so many folks don’t have primary care physicians,” Brady said. “This is an easy entry to perhaps get a referral for people who don’t have a physician. Many of these people haven’t had a physical in years.”

Another part of the program is employee contracts. The hospital sends out its mobile health van – a 34-foot custom Winnebego – so resorts, ski teams and other groups can participate in the Fit to Ski/Board Program on site.

Once participants have been through all the tests, and the results have been reviewed, the health professional will give them recommendations on how to improve their fitness levels, with various stretches and exercises.

“Hopefully they are going to follow our advice and prevent injury,” said Scott Williams, a physical therapist at Tahoe Forest Therapy Services. “I think that’s very important for people to remember when going through this program. It’s my goal to decrease the incident of injury and just hope they follow our advice.”

Williams said that most of the people he sees are 35 to 55 years old, but he’d like more young boarders and skiers to participate in the program.

“Younger people think they’re invincible, but they’d probably benefit most from it. They have more of an opportunity to undo what has been done,” he said.

For more information on any of the Fit to Live programs, or to schedule an individual or group appointment, call 582-3483.