When the weather becomes cold, families head out to the ice rinks, sledding hills, and ski slopes for some winter fun. While spending time outdoors is undoubtedly good for you, there is also a risk of injury that comes with playing on slippery surfaces. In fact, ice and snow sports injuries are one of the leading causes of emergency room visits.
At EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region, we want you to enjoy the winter season without injuries. Knowing the most common injuries and basic sports injury prevention strategies can keep you out of urgent care or the emergency room and outside having fun. But, if an accident does happen, you can rest assured that our team of board-certified orthopedic surgeons is here to help you (or your family member) make a full recovery and emerge stronger, healthier, and better.
The Most Common Snow Sports Injuries
Most snow sports injuries, including skiing and snowboarding injuries, are caused by falls and include:
- Sprains and strains
For example, falling on a hard surface – like an ice rink or packed snow — can cause a shoulder or elbow dislocation. The shoulder joint is more mobile than many of the other joints in the body, making it prone to injury during a hard landing. Shoulder dislocations are also common ice hockey injuries caused when players are pushed hard into the boards. Putting your arms out to catch yourself when you fall can also injure the wrist, elbow, or shoulder.
Winter sports are also associated with knee injuries, especially among skiers. Overuse can lead to sprains and strains, but falls that bend the knee in unusual ways can cause torn or stretched ligaments (including ACL tears), a torn meniscus, or even dislocated or fractured knees. Snowboarders are also at risk for knee injuries, but ankle injuries are more common. Fractures of the fibula, located on the outside of the ankle, are such common snowboarding injuries that they are known as “snowboarder’s ankle.”
Preventing Injuries During Winter Sports
Spending an afternoon ice skating or on the slopes does not have to mean weeks or months of recovery from an injury or surgery. Taking a few basic precautions can reduce your risk of skating, skiing, or snowboarding injuries.
Injury prevention starts with knowing your limits. Many snow sports injuries occur when athletes are tired or already in pain. While you might want to push through for one more run down your favorite slope, overexertion can lead to injury. Know when to call it a day, and avoid taking unnecessary risks.
Other tips for snow sports injury prevention include:
- Using the proper technique. Taking lessons from a qualified professional can help you learn the best ways to fall, stay balanced, and avoid injuries.
- Wearing the proper protective gear. In addition to several layers of warm, water-resistant clothing to keep warm, invest in good-quality protective equipment for snow sports. Children should always wear helmets to protect against concussion, as well as knee and elbow pads, gloves, and goggles as needed.
- Investing in the proper equipment. Make sure that all winter sports gear fits properly and is in good condition. Ice skating injuries, for instance, can occur when skates are not sharpened or the wrong size.
- Following the rules. Remind children to follow the rules of the sport and avoid taking unnecessary risks. For example, avoid skiing on slopes that are more advanced than your abilities.
- Warming up. Warm-up and stretch before any winter sports activity. Some jumping jacks, marching in place, or a brisk walk followed by dynamic stretching loosens muscles, ligaments, and tendons and reduces the risk of getting hurt.
- Staying hydrated. Even in cold weather, it is essential to drink plenty of water. Take frequent breaks to hydrate and refuel, and give your muscles a chance to rest and recover.
- Knowing your surroundings. Collisions are a leading cause of snow sports injuries. Stay alert to everything around you, and avoid crowds, trees, rocks, and other obstacles. Pay attention to the weather and be prepared to adjust plans in case of extreme cold or storms. Remind your children never to play winter sports alone. Even solitary activities like skating can cause potentially life-threatening injuries, so insist on a buddy system to prepare for emergencies.
Injury Treatment at EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region
Following these safety guidelines significantly reduces the likelihood of a winter sports injury. However, if you or a family member is injured this winter, you can count on EmergeOrtho for expert treatment. Whether it is a minor sprain or a more significant fracture, we are here to help. Self-schedule an appointment here, or call us any time at (919) 220-5255 with questions.