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Play it Safe This Winter

Ready for some ice skating? Hoping to hit the slopes? Is there a take-no-prisoners snowball fight in your future? The presence of COVID-19 may play havoc with what you can do this winter, but at the same time getting outside is good for all of us. Assuming you protect yourself from the virus, we want to encourage you to also protect yourself from injury.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common injuries related to winter activities include wrist fractures and knee injuries – specifically, a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a torn meniscus. There is also the risk of concussion, spinal injuries and other broken bones.

The goal here is not to scare you away from having fun outside! Rather, it’s a reminder to prepare yourself properly so you can make the most of the entire season.

Here are a few tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) before you head out:

  • “Wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves, and padding.” If you’re going ice skating, you might also consider wearing not just a helmet, but also wrist guards and/or knee pads. The AAOS also recommends dressing in layers with moisture-wicking and waterproof clothing.
  • “Know and abide by all rules of the winter sport in which you are participating.” If you’re a newbie on the slopes, the AAOS advises that in addition to learning how to ski or snowboard, you should “learn how to fall correctly to reduce the risk of injury.” Skaters should do the same.
  • “Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if you or anyone with you is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite when in the cold.” The effects of hypothermia move very quickly – learn to recognize the symptoms.
  • “Warm up muscles with light exercise for 10 minutes.” Even if skiers and snowboarders are already in good shape, they should never skip the warmup.

For skiers and snowboarders specifically, Brett D. Owens, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, adds this advice:

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Be knowledgeable about how to use your equipment appropriately, and ensure everything is in optimal working condition.
  • Check that the ski bindings can release from your boots when appropriate, and that boots fit appropriately.
  • Check that the edges of your skis and/or snowboard are flat and sharp for maximum performance to minimize injuries.
  • Avoid alcohol or drug use.
  • Be sure you have the ability to slow down and stop on busy days when many other athletes also are on the mountain.
  • Use extreme caution when weather conditions are not optimal.
  • Always follow signs and ski patrol instructions. Never ski or snowboard “out-of-bounds.”

We wish you lots of safe winter fun!

Categories: Healthy Aging