Embracing Winter Sports Safety: Tips for Injury Prevention

Posted on: January 9th, 2024 by Cort Lawton, MD

Winter sports and activities offer an exhilarating opportunity to bask in the great outdoors while staying active. The numerous advantages of engaging in these pastimes undoubtedly outweigh the potential risk of injury. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to acknowledge that each winter season, approximately 200,000 Americans require medical attention due to injuries associated with these activities. At OrthoIllinois, we routinely encounter injuries stemming from various winter sports endeavors, including:

Knee and Ankle Injuries:

When it comes to winter sports, our knees bear substantial strain compared to our usual daily activities. The increased impact on knees heightens the likelihood of injury. Skiing enthusiasts are most susceptible to knee sprains. Common injuries in this category include torn ligaments, meniscus damage, dislocations, and fractures. Snowboarding and skiing can also lead to ankle injuries, given the twisting motions involved in maneuvering the snowboard.

Shoulder Mishaps:

It’s no surprise that even the most skilled winter sports aficionados take a tumble now and then. In such situations, we instinctively use our arms to break our fall, resulting in dislocated shoulders or rotator cuff tears.

Hand and Wrist Strains:

Whether you’re conquering the slopes, gliding on ice, or traversing cross-country trails, wrist and finger sprains and fractures are fairly common. Skiers, in particular, should be wary of “Skier’s Thumb,” an injury that occurs when a skier falls and bends their hand backward while gripping the ski pole.

Preventing Winter Sports Injuries:

Participating in physical activities during the winter season is immensely beneficial for our overall well-being. However, it’s important to consider the following precautions before embarking on your chosen winter sport:

Warm Up:

In the cold weather, your muscles tend to be tighter, making them more susceptible to strains and tears. Taking a few minutes to stretch your muscles can significantly reduce this risk.

Learn How to Fall:

Falling is an inherent part of winter sports, but there is a right way and a wrong way to fall. Avoid bracing yourself during a fall if possible, and aim to land on your side, as this can help minimize the risk of injury. It’s also crucial to recognize when fatigue sets in and take breaks accordingly.

Stay Hydrated:

Dehydration can increase your vulnerability to injuries. Proper hydration ensures that your muscles and joints receive adequate lubrication, reducing inflammation, cramps, joint friction, and fatigue.

Take a Lesson:

While watching elite athletes on television might make it seem effortless, it’s important to remember that they undergo extensive training. While you may not need to commit eight hours a day to coaching, a few lessons can bolster your confidence and, subsequently, lower your risk of injury.

Don’t Go Alone:

Having a companion during your winter sports activities is not only enjoyable but also provides crucial support in case of an injury. Skiing, snowboarding, or skating with a partner ensures that help is readily available if needed.

Winter sports are a fantastic way to make the most of the season while staying active. By adhering to these safety tips, you can minimize the risk of injuries and fully savor the joys of winter sports.

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