Winter is no time to become sedentary, but it’s no surprise that snow, cold and inclement conditions contribute to an increase in injuries and orthopedic pain.According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission 2010 reports, nearly 450,000 people were treated for winter sports injuries related to skiing, snowboarding, sledding and ice skating.To avoid becoming an injury statistic, consider the following tips while pursuing winter sports and recreation:
- Stop when you’re tired. A significant percentage of winter injuries occur when participants experience muscle fatigue or decreased alertness—and choose to push through these conditions. Whether you’re in an alpine environment or playing closer to home, cold weather elevates the demand on your body. To keep up with the demand, rest at regular intervals and know when it’s time to call it a day.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink! Hypothermia and frostbite are not the only health hazards associated with winter activity. Since thirst is less noticeable during winter than other seasons, hydration is even more critical. Your body is made up of nearly 2/3 water—and dehydration sets in after a small percentage of fluid loss. In addition to carrying a water bottle or tube-fed hydration system during winter outings, avoid diuretics like caffeine and alcohol.
- Maintain your fitness level. Many winter sports require a level of conditioning your body may not be used to, so the best way to prevent seasonal injury is to stay fit—year round. Then, a few weeks before it’s time to hit the slopes, the rink or the trail, focus on muscle conditioning that is specific to your sport.
- Wear appropriate safety gear. A recent Johns Hopkins study reported that nearly 20 percent of skiing and snowboarding injuries lead to head injuries when participants hit trees, the ground, and other inanimate objects. Often, injured were not wearing helmets. While it sounds intuitive, it shouldn’t be forgotten: helmets save lives every day. In addition to a helmet and goggles, remember to protect your skin from cold by wearing a base layer, high-quality gloves, and boots.
- Warm up before any type of winter activity. To preserve your body’s core temperature, muscles and connective tissues (ligaments and tendons) contract. In this tight position, they are more vulnerable to tears and sprains. A lengthy warm-up is the best way to avoid this. It’s also wise to acclimate your body to the cold a few minutes at a time as winter sets in. Soon, your body will more quickly adapt to chillier temperatures.
In addition to skiing, boarding, sledding and ice skating, a number of other winter activities leave participants prone to traumatic winter injury. The most common include:
- Shoveling injuries
- Snow blower accidents
Unfortunately, no amount of agility, performance and core training will render you injury-free 100 percent of the time. When slips, falls or sports accidents occur, don’t wait to see an orthopedic specialist. After thoroughly assessing your condition, the doctor may recommend additional scans or tests to determine the best course of action—and may provide you with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce discomfort during healing. Waiting to treat your injury could result in increased joint inflammation or chronic pain that compromises your work and family life.To learn more about common winter sports injuries and their treatment options, visit our Patient Education portal. Serving patients of all ages in Passaic, Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Morris counties, our team of board-certified surgeons and orthopedic specialists helps patients conquer pain, accelerate rehabilitation and get back to an active, healthy lifestyle—year round.