Safety in the Snow: Preventing Injuries This Winter
Whizzing down a snow-covered slope on two skis can be dangerous and hard on your knees, but even simple activities such as shoveling snow or walking on snow and ice pose a variety of hazards.
It is important to be alert during the winter and take precautions to prevent personal injury. An accident can happen while you are skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, sledding or snowmobiling. It can also happen while walking out of your home, taking down Christmas lights, or shoveling the driveway.
Educate yourself and your family about staying safe in the snow and preventing injuries this winter. The snow-covered scenery may look beautiful and serene, but danger lurks amid all that fluffy white stuff. Get prepared by following these winter injury prevention tips, so you can stay safe and active this winter season.
Most common winter injuries
Colder temperature, snowy weather, and hidden hazards increase the risk for injury in winter. Activities that lead to injury include:
- Falling on ice and snow
- Muscle strain from shoveling snow or scraping ice off the car
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Accidents while playing winter sports and activities
In 2018, injuries related to winter sports accounted for nearly 200,000 emergency room and doctors’ visits, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- 76,000 injuries from snow skiing
- 53,000 injuries from snowboarding
- 48,000 injuries from ice skating
- 22,000 injuries from sledding and tobogganing
Some of most common winter injuries include:
- Head injuries including concussions and traumatic brain injury
- Back and spinal injuries
- Shoulder injuries including torn rotator cuff, dislocation, and soreness
- Knee joint pain, dislocation, and soreness
- Neck stiffness, pain, and nerve damage
- Wrist fractures and sprains
- Elbow fractures and dislocation
- Ankle sprains and strains
- Hip fracture and soreness
Your shoulder, neck, knees, and joints are prone to pain, strain, arthritis, dislocation and more. Besides minor bruising, soreness, and stiffness, extreme sports and daily activities can result in more serious broken bones, back injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
Some winter accidents and falls can be devastating, especially for the elderly, those with limited mobility, and people suffering from previous injuries. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans. Falls also are a leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI), especially among persons 65 years of age or older.
Tips for preventing winter injuries
Modeling good safety practices, staying alert, and taking precautions is the best method to avoid a slip or fall on icy days and prevent injury while enjoying your favorite winter sport. Here are a few things to remember to keep you and your family safer:
- Always wear a helmet while snow skiing, snowboarding, playing hockey, snowmobiling or doing other extreme sports. While a helmet does not protect you 100 percent, it can go a long way to softening a blow to your head and reducing the risk of a concussion or TBI.
- Wear proper footwear appropriate for the activity you are doing. Invest in a pair of warm, waterproof snow boots. Wear shoes and boots with sturdy soles and high-quality tread. In addition, wear the proper clothing and protective equipment for the sport (goggles, pads, shin guards, chin straps, weatherproof clothing).
- Do a light warm up before hitting the slopes, taking a hike, or heading out on your fat-tire bike or even to shovel. Stretching can help warm up your body and prevent muscle strain. Drink plenty of water before and after any strenuous activity.
- Know the conditions. If an ice storm is in the forecast, be prepared for slippery driveways, sidewalks, and roads. This also applies to snow sports like downhill skiing, snowmobiling, and even sledding. If you run outdoors during the winter, go with a buddy, carry a cell phone, and make sure your route has been salted and cleared of ice and snow.
- Know your limits. If you are in poor health, suffered a heart attack or back injury, or are recovering from an injury, use good judgment. Don’t go out and shovel the driveway for two hours. Limit trips outdoors if you have trouble walking on ice or snow.
- Be aware of people around you. Often, injuries on the slopes, a skating rink, or snowmobile trail are the result of other people’s actions. Newbies often go too fast, aren’t skilled at stopping, or exhibit other reckless behavior. Be on guard and pay attention to your surroundings. Always supervise children playing in the snow.
- Use caution when walking on snow or ice. Ice can be hard to see both at night and during the day, and it’s easy to slip off a step or curb and lose your footing. Use handrails when possible and watch where you are walking. Keep your stride shorter and avoid long steps. Be alert, especially for black ice or ice hidden under snow, and keep your hands free. That means no texting while walking!
- Keep de-icer or sand on hand for when things get slippery around your house. Thoroughly and regularly salt driveways, sidewalks, and stairs.
- Carry your cell phone and keep it in a place you can easily call 911 in case of injury or an emergency.
- Take it slow and try not to rush or run outdoors. Take your time and don’t hurry, especially if you are helping a child or senior. Hold onto children and seniors to help stabilize them as you walk across slippery parking lots.
- Ask for help. Call a neighborhood youth to shovel or pick up your mail, or schedule a plow truck to clear the drive if possible. If you need to do outdoor chores, try to wait until the snow or ice has melted and watch for signs of overexertion. Shoveling snow can sneak up on you; it results in many hospital visits, heart attacks, and back injuries. Low temperatures coupled with the repetitive actions of twisting and lifting while shoveling can cause severe strain on the body.
Using common sense and extra care in the winter is important, as injuries can range from mild to severe and life altering. Some people ignore signs and symptoms of an injury and don’t always feel the effects of a fall right away. Minor aches and pains may be treated at home with rest, over-the-counter pain reliever, a warm Epsom salt bath, and ice or heat.
If you suspect broken or fractured bones or a head injury, seek medical attention immediately. Do not ignore ongoing symptoms like pain, swelling, losing consciousness, chest pains or not being able to get up without pain or bear weight on an ankle. It’s important to visit the emergency room or seek the advice of your physician as soon as possible to assess your condition. It may be necessary to see an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist for ongoing treatment and rehabilitation.
In the event you do sustain slip, fall or winter sports injury, physical therapy can help rehab many injuries, restore strength and mobility, and speed up your recovery. Generation Care offers a full array of therapeutic treatment options, sports performance and rehab services, and integrated wellness programs. You can count on our rehabilitation team to provide compassionate care designed around your individual goals, so you can get back to your favorite winter activities.