Winter Sports Injury Prevention

Outdoor activities can be an excellent way to get some fresh air and exercise during the long, chilly winter months, but the cold temperatures and icy surfaces can also lead to more injuries.

Common winter sports injuries include sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures. Orthopedic surgeons advise that a majority of these injuries can easily be prevented if participants prepare for their winter sport by keeping in good physical condition, staying alert, and stopping when they are tired or in pain.

Many of these sports injuries happen at the end of the day, when people overexert themselves to finish that one last run before the day’s end.

There are many things you can do to help prevent injury during favorite winter activities. Following is a list of tips to help you have fun while minimizing your risk of injury while enjoying winter sports such as skiing, skating, hockey, snowboarding, and sledding.

Never participate alone in a winter sport.

Keep in shape and condition muscles before participating in winter activities.

Warm up thoroughly before playing or participating. Cold muscles, tendons, and ligaments are vulnerable to injury. Start with some light exercises, followed by gentle stretching. Make sure to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. If skiing, take at least one warm up run before heading to more difficult slopes.

Wear appropriate winter sports protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding.

Check that equipment is working properly prior to use.

Wear several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection. Layering allows you to accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature. Wear proper footwear that provides warmth and dryness, as well as ample ankle support.

Know and abide by all rules of the sport in which you are participating.

Take a lesson (or several) from a qualified instructor, especially in winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. Learning how to fall correctly and safely can reduce the risk of injury.

Pay attention to warnings about upcoming winter storms and severe drops in temperature to ensure safety.

Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if you, or anyone with you, is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite. Make sure everyone is aware of proper procedures for getting help, if injuries occur.

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after activities.

Avoid participating in sports when you are in pain or exhausted.

Become familiar with your surroundings. Know the whereabouts of fences, trees, rocks, open water, and ice patches so they can be avoided. Stay on marked trails and avoid any potentially dangerous areas such as steep hills. Slippery surfaces are particularly troublesome, as they can cause sudden jarring movements, e.g., unnatural fall avoidance.