Winter Sports Injuries: How to Stay Safe
It happens when you least expect it. One moment you’re having fun in the snow or at the ice skating rink, and the next you’re waiting for your X-ray results at the emergency room. Winter sports injuries are common, ranging from relatively mild sprains, strains and factures, to much more serious problems such as concussions and traumatic brain injuries. During an average winter season in the United States, hospitals treat nearly 250,000 injuries related to winter sports. Unfortunately, they also see multiple deaths from head injuries.
“Our advice for winter sports injuries is the same as it is for virtually every health issue: Prevention is better than a cure,” said June Weise, RN, BSN at Abington-Jefferson Health. “The best thing you can do is prepare for the activity, which includes wearing a helmet and other protective gear.”
Preventing Winter Sports Injuries
Before you head out for your winter adventure, keep in mind the following advice related to the sports you’re participating in. In many cases, a little planning and foresight can help you and your children avoid the most common winter sports injuries.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Skiing and snowboarding involve high speeds and potential obstacles, so a helmet is an essential piece of gear even if you’re only navigating the bunny slope. Helmets are designed to absorb the impact of a collision, and they reduce head injuries related to skiing and snowboarding by up to 50 percent.
Before skiing or snowboarding, you should also be sure to adequately warm up to loosen your muscles and tendons. Staying flexible will help you avoid potential strains and sprains during a fall or hard turn.
“When you’re out on the slopes, it’s important to know your limits,” said Weise. “Most injuries occur when people are fatigued and push themselves to ski one more hill at the end of the day.”
Kids should wear a helmet while sledding as well, since a sled on a steep, icy hill can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. It’s also a good opportunity to teach kids about managing risks themselves: Go feet first, avoid crowded slopes where you can crash into other people, and don’t sled near streets or cars.
“Many parents complain that their kids resist wearing helmets while sledding,” said Weise. “If they fit properly, they won’t be restrictive or uncomfortable. Plus, the risk of not wearing a helmet outweighs any complaints you may hear.”
Novice ice skaters should always start with figure skates instead of hockey skates, since they are generally easier to control. You should also keep in mind the “right” way to fall on the ice. If you feel a fall coming on, try to land on the side of your bottom so your glute muscles can take the brunt of the impact.
Never skate with your hands in your pockets, since you may need to quickly brace your fall and protect your face and teeth. If you do have to catch yourself when falling, try to land with your elbows bent to minimize the stress on your wrists. This will help you to avoid a potential break or sprain.
“Another good rule of thumb for winter sports is to use the buddy system,” said Weise. “If something does go wrong, you’ll have someone nearby who can get help quickly.”