For many people, dropping temperatures mean it’s time to bundle up and head outdoors for their favorite winter activities. Whether you’re a sports enthusiast hitting the ski slope, a casual skater heading to the local rink or a parent ready to tackle the nearby sledding hill with your child, great times and memories await. However, it’s important to make sure your fun winter day isn’t spoiled by an accident or injury.
“Winter sports and recreational activities have great health and cardiovascular benefits,” says Joseph Bosco, M.D., FAAOS, orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and first vice president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “However, it’s important not to underestimate the risks that cold weather can bring. Hospitals and health care clinics across the country see an increase of bone and joint injuries related to winter activities, and many could be prevented with the right planning and preparation.”
Injuries can happen to anyone at any time, whether you’re on the ice or on the slopes. You don’t have to be an extreme athlete to experience the risks. Common winter sports injuries include sprains, strains, dislocations and fractures, but more traumatic injuries to the head and spine can also occur. Consider these tips from Dr. Bosco and the experts at the AAOS.
Be prepared: Keep in shape and condition muscles before participating in winter activities. What’s more, on the day of your activity, warm up thoroughly before playing outdoors. Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are vulnerable to injury. Finally, have ample supplies ready, including water for before, during and after activities.
Dress correctly: Always wear well-fitting protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding. Wear several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection. Finally, proper footwear that provides warmth, dryness and ankle support is key.
Know the rules: Know and abide by all rules of the sport in which you are participating. If you’re new or need a refresher, consider taking lessons from a qualified instructor, especially in sports like skiing and snowboarding. Learning rules of the hill and skills like falling correctly and safely can reduce the risk of injury.
Watch the weather: Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature. Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if anyone is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite. Make sure everyone is aware of proper procedures for getting help, if injuries occur.
Use common sense: Never participate in an outdoor sport or activity alone. If you become injured, you need someone to help you and respond appropriately so you can get necessary medical care. What’s more, if you become exhausted or start to feel pain, stop the activity for the day to avoid injury.
“Don’t let winter sports injuries freeze your fun,” adds Dr. Bosco. “By keeping in good physical condition, staying alert and stopping when you’re tired or in pain, you can enjoy the best of winter and reduce your risk of injury.”
To learn more about winter sports safety and ways to prevent injuries, visit OrthoInfo.org.