Winter is Coming, but Painful Injuries Don’t Have to Come with It

With the winter season comes a bevy of activities to get the blood flowing. Skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey and even just having a snowball fight are all unique to the colder months. With those activities can also come painful injuries, many of which can be prevented by taking necessary precautions and preparations.

Each year, thousands of people are injured by the most common winter activities, with numbers growing on an annual basis. Typically, winter sports injuries mostly consist of injuries such as strains, sprains, hyperextensions, dislocations and fractures. In 2015 there were:

  • 88,000 injuries from skiing
  • 61,000 injuries from snowboarding
  • 50,000 injuries from ice skating
  • 47,000 injuries from sledding, tobogganing and snow tubing

With such a large number of injuries, it’s important to consider ways of preparing and preventing misfortune from happening during the only time of year in which these modes of having fun are available.

Many people find that the injuries they experience occur towards the end of the day. One last run down the slopes or one more turn of the rink can often result in overexerting the body. In addition, muscles tend to tighten quicker in the cold, and by overworking and/or not stretching or staying in good shape, injury is far more likely. There are a variety of ways to prevent injuries that result from activity in the cold:

  • Avoid activity when experiencing pain or exhaustionRest is essential to healing, and if a person is experiencing soreness or minor injury, it’s crucial to let the body recover.
  • Be sure all equipment is functioning properly (i.e. helmets, pads, ski boots etc.)Malfunctioning equipment can lead to very serious injury. Be sure to double-check any equipment being used before starting an activity.
  • Drink water and stay hydrated before, during and after activityStaying hydrated is always important, but doing so while being active is essential. Cold weather can often cause people to not consider drinking water, but it is just as vital during winter as during exercise in any other season. 
  • Keep exercising throughout the year to maintain good physical healthBy keeping the body conditioned, colder weather, along with tighter muscles and stress on joints, won’t be as likely to cause injuries.
  • Stay aware of weather conditions and severe coldKnowing upcoming weather patterns is important during the winter, as snow/ice storms can lead to hypothermia and extreme frostbite.
  • Take ski or snowboard lessons if necessary, as proper form and safety can be the difference in preventing injury while on the slopes.By taking lessons from a trained instructor, you can gain better understanding of form and the correct way of going about activities on the slopes and/or the mountains. Knowing proper form significantly reduces the chances of injury.
  • Wear layered clothing; dressing for warmth should include a heavy top layer with progressively lighter layers underneath.By dressing in layers, you have the ability to avoid becoming overheated when weather and activity increases body heat, and to also bundle up when temperatures get cooler.
  • Warm up before participating in activities by stretching and doing light exercise.By stretching and doing some light exercise before winter sports, it’s far less likely that you will experience a sprain, strain or tear. When the muscles become more tense in response to colder conditions, it’s very important to keep blood flow circulating in order to prevent injury.

By being aware of ways in which you can prevent injury from winter sports, it can be easy to enjoy all that the season has to offer. Taking just a few minutes to prepare and make sure proper precautions are in place is the best way to stay healthy, and avoid having to take time off from the countless activities that the season has to offer.