With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics just around the corner and the recent heavy snowfall on the East Coast, it’s certain that many people are engaging in all types of outdoor winter activities. From skiing and snowboarding to ice skating and sledding, the wintertime can help make wonderful memories with friends and family. Unfortunately, these activities can also carry the risk of injury – note the recent, tragic example of Formula 1 racer Michael Schumacher, who suffered brain injury when he fell and struck a rock while skiing. He was wearing a helmet, but currently remains in a medically induced coma. It’s important amidst the snowy fun to take safety precautions to prevent winter sports injuries.
During the winter season each year, more than 150,000 injuries occur on average from skiing, snowboarding, and sledding accidents. Fans of cold-weather outdoor activities must keep in mind the issue of safety and the possibility of injury. If it’s slippery, you may be prone to falling – and believe it or not, there is a “right” way to fall. Whether you’re on the sidewalk or subway stairs, try to take control of your fall by remaining on an angle and tucking your head. In addition, it’s a good idea to wear rubber soled shoes and stay on grass when sidewalks are slick.
Skiing and snowboarding are quite popular during the winter months, but they can result in potentially severe injuries, especially if proper safety precautions are left unheeded. Before you hit the slopes, be sure to stretch your muscles, specifically your lower back, which will help keep you in proper form. Twisting or straining to avoid a fall can lead to a lower or mid-back injury. Also remember to stick to slopes that fit your experience level – icy or suddenly steep conditions can quickly lead to an “out of control” fall or twisting injury. And most importantly, try to keep your speed at a moderate level, and ski in control.
Sledding is a popular family activity, especially on snow days like the one we had last week, and can be a fun time for all. Unfortunately, it can also lead to injuries in people of all ages, the most common of which are back- and neck-related. This can be a result of being thrown from the sled, or coming down hard after going over a sudden bump or jump. Whiplash can also occur from quick stops or crashes. Try sled safety: limit the number of people on a sled, make sure your path is clear of people, dogs, and debris before heading down the slope, and steer clear of large, icy hills.
Winter sports can be very good for strengthening muscles and burning calories, and most importantly are a lot of fun. But know your limits – they have the potential to lead to back injury or exacerbate already existing issues. If you are a fan of winter sports, I advise you to take all the proper precautions: stretching, not over-extending yourself, staying hydrated, wearing the proper safety equipment when applicable, and staying within your skill level. If you experience any pain due to a winter sport injury, please see your physician.