Safety and Winter Sports

Mark A. Pollard, MD
Cooper Bone & Joint Institute

Girl having fun in snowWinter is a wonderful time of year that allows the opportunity to participate in fun activities like skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and sledding. Unfortunately, injuries are commonly suffered during these activities. According to a study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2010, there were over 140,000 injuries from skiing and snowboarding each, and over 90,000 sledding injuries. Many of these injuries may be preventable.

Injuries that are common to winter sports include fractures, dislocations, sprains, strains or contusions (bruises). These injuries seem to be common at the end of the day, when the participant is tired.  Recognizing when one is tired and stopping to rest may be one of the most important things one can do to prevent injuries from occurring—participating while exhausted isn’t a good idea!

Before an activity, many things can be done to prevent injury. Proper conditioning can prevent fatigue that can predispose to injury. Familiarity with the terrain and equipment is essential. With skiing or snowboarding, properly fitted equipment that is in good repair is also important. Helmet use can also help prevent devastating head injuries. Finally, a good warmup is a great way to prevent injury – cold muscles and tendons are more prone to injury than ones that have been properly warmed up.

Dehydration is common with winter sports and activity. When one becomes dehydrated, they fatigue easily, their performance suffers and they are at increased risk for hypothermia. It is important to remember to drink plenty of water before, during and after participation in winter sports.

Finally, injuries due to cold weather deserve mention. Hypothermia and frostbite are common and, often, preventable. Making sure that one wears warm enough clothing in layers is important. Pay special attention to exposed skin, like ears, nose and fingers. Seek shelter and warmth immediately if there is a suspicion of any of the above conditions.

Winter sports are associated with a significant number of injuries. Common sense and proper preparation can minimize the chance of problems so you can maximize the fun.



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