A fresh coating of snow covers the slopes at the local ski spot. People are clamoring up to the ski lift to enjoy one last run of the day. A snowmobile flies through an open, snow-covered field whipping cold air onto the driver’s face. During the winter people in our community enjoy hours of outdoor recreation whether they ski, snowboard, snowmobile, skate or even sled. But to enjoy the season to the fullest you need to be mindful of how to stay safe and stay out of urgent care.
Did you know? Snowboarding was the leading cause of winter sports injuries? According to the 2007 report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 149,388 people ended up in hospital emergency rooms, urgent care and at orthopaedic medical offices like OAM.
Are you safe, if you don’t snowboard and participate in other winter sports activities? In case you were wondering, the runner up in injuries was skiing, with a staggering 131,454 injuries. Other sports included sledding and tobogganing, which resulted in 107,890 reported injuries, 58,380 skating injuries, 47,594 hockey-related injuries, and snowmobiling brought up the rear with 34,699 injuries. Injuries can vary from simple sprains and muscle pulls, to complicated breaks and concussions.
Should we avoid winter sports? Not at all, winter sports provide lots of cardiovascular workouts and being outside during the winter season is important to our health. But if you keep in mind a few key safety recommendations you can enjoy your favorite winter activities with a less injuries and visits to the doctor’s office.
Safety tips to consider:
Cold muscles and ligaments are more prone to injury. Like any workout (including snow shoveling or snow blowing), muscles your stretch and warm up will respond better to your workout, resulting in less pain the next day and lower likelihood of injury. Our OAM physicians recommend a simple 3-5 minutes of light exercise and slow and gentle stretches – holding each stretch for 30 seconds should be enough.
Are you more than a weekend sports warrior? If you are professionally training within a winter discipline you should be doing so under a trained coach. This individual will have great tips and will make sure you stay injury free through proper stretches and training program.
Hydrate! When on the slopes or on a trail, don’t forget that you need to stay hydrated, this will help with overheating and dehydration.
Getting tired, or are you in pain? Then stop participating, don’t push yourself if you are experiencing pain or exhaustion. You may push yourself into more pain the next morning or into an injury.
Use the buddy system. It works on school field trips and it certainly works outdoors, avoid skiing, sledding, skating snowmobiling and snowboarding alone. If anything does happen you’ll have someone who can get help quickly – potentially saving your life.
Know the rules. Know the rules and safety tips for the winter sports you enjoy – they are put in place to keep you and those around you safe.
Don’t forget padding and other protective gear. That means goggles for skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. Helmets, gloves and other forms of padding as deemed necessary by your particular sport. Before you head out to participate in your favorite winter sport, check to make sure all equipment is in good working order!
Proper winter wear is a must. Even if you are keeping warm by moving around, you still need proper winter protection. We recommend wearing a few layers of clothes, light, loose and definitely water- and wind-resistant. Layering will allow you to adjust how many layers you need depending on your body temperature. Proper footwear is also a must. We’ve mentioned this in the snow shoveling and snow blowing posts, you need footwear that provides both warmth and dryness while providing proper ankle support and traction.
Be alert and be aware. Winter weather can change very quickly from light flurries to a full-blown blizzard in the matter of a few hours. Be aware of weather warnings regarding storms or severe drops in temperature. When enjoying the outdoors become familiar with surroundings (landmarks, open water, ice, etc.) Stay on trails and avoid steep hillsides with little to no plant life, those may have a higher tendency for avalanches or land slides. Be prepared with an emergency plan; make sure you can reach medical assistance to treat any potential injuries.
Tips courtesy of AAOS (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.) To learn about other helpful winter sports tips and stretches please don’t hesitate to contact our helpful staff at 616-459-7101