Tips for Preventing Accidents and Injuries from Outdoor Winter Sports

Tips for preventing accidents and injuries from outdoor winter sports for the novice or experienced athlete.

Winter snow sports such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, sledding, snowmobiling, or hockey are all an excellent way to actively enjoy the colder wintery weather while having fun, staying fit, and enjoying the outdoors. Although participating in these outdoor activities can be enjoyable they
also can increase your risk for injury because of the colder temperatures and
slippery conditions.  Here are some tips to help you stay safe and avoid injuries.

Colder temperatures affect your muscles, ligaments, and tendons by decreasing their strength and ability to move and stretch which can cause pain and injury.  Before heading out for some outdoor fun in the colder temperatures make sure that you warm up your body with some light exercises followed by stretching.  This will raise your body’s core temperature and reduce your chances of injury. 

As with any sport, dressing appropriately is vital.  In winter sports it is essential that your body maintains its temperature optimally to perform at its best and prevent hypothermia.  The correct way to dress is by layering clothing which will keep your body dry and warm.  Always choose the appropriate clothing for the activities or sports you will be playing.  You should keep an extra set of dry clothing just in case your clothes do get wet.  In general, clothing layering should consist of a base layer, mid layer, and an outer layer.  The base layer is in direct contact with your skin, tight fitting, non-cotton, with a weight that is appropriate with the outside temperature and your activity level.  Cotton should be avoided because it is a poor insulator and retains moisture which can lead to rapid heat loss in colder temperature.  Synthetic materials such as polypropylene that is lighter in weight are more efficient at wicking compared to heavier weights which are more insulating.  The mid layer acts as an insulating layer and should be looser than the base in order to carry moisture away from the base layer to the outer layer.  The best types of materials for this layer are natural fibers or classic fleece which are soft, warm, breathable, and continue to insulate when wet.  The outer layer or the shell layer is used to allow moisture out while not letting wind or water in.  The type of outer layer depends upon your activity and intensity level.  Don’t forget to wear your hat, gloves, and proper footwear! 

When participating in winter sports it is absolutely vital to wear a properly fitted helmet to protect yourself from brain injury.  The use of helmets decreases the risk and severity of head injuries which saves lives.  According to a study from Johns-Hopkins, roughly 10 million Americans ski or snowboard each year in the United States with approximately 600,000 injuries reported annually.  Up to 20% of those are head injuries which mostly occur when skiers or snow boarders hit inanimate objects such as trees or the ground.  Twenty-two percent of those head injuries are severe enough to cause loss of consciousness, concussion, or even worse injuries. Often the injured were not wearing helmets.  Head injuries among winter sports enthusiasts lead to hospitalization, death, or long-term disability, and contribute to increase health care spending.(HELMETSAVES LIVES)  Be aware of the warning signs for concussion which include headaches, decreased coordination or balance, confusion, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, and weakness.  If a concussion is suspected seek medical care right away. 

Participate in winter sports and activities with your team, friends, or family.  It
is necessary to go with others in the event of an emergency or an accident and
help is needed.  Stay alert and be familiar with your surroundings.  Take some time to review maps of the slopes, rink, or trails.  Survey the landscape and know where there are potential areas of danger such as fences, trees, rocks, and water.  Stay on marked trails and be aware of the crowds because other people who are irresponsible or out of control could potentially harm you by collision. 

Know what your limitations are.  Whether you are going to hit the slopes, go snowmobiling, or are playing a pickup game of hockey it is important that you do not push yourself over the top creating a new injury or flaring up an old one.  Take your time set parameters and pace yourself especially if you are a weekend warrior or have not trained.  Drink plenty of water to maintain your hydration, stretch often, take appropriate rests when needed, and most importantly have fun!  With proper preparation and safety measures, winter can be an exceptional time of the year to participate in outside activities and winter sports while enjoying the season. 

At Performance Spine and Sports Medicine of Newtown, we specialize in non-surgical orthopaedic care and we can help make sure you’re prepared for winter sports and treat the injuries endured while participating in them.  For more
information on how Performance Spine and Sports Medicine of Newtown can help
you and your family prevent and or manage injuries from winter sports this
season you can visit our office at 828A Newtown-Yardley Road, website at www.sportsmedicinenewtownpa.com or contact me at mmclarnon@pssmnewtown.com





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