Winter Sport Safety
Bears and bumblebees may hibernate during winter, but people should stay active. Exercising in cold weather boosts immunity, challenges the cardiovascular system, increases calories burned, and keeps away the winter blues. Plus, there are a wide variety of winter sports to participate in, from sledding to ice skating.
But injuries can easily occur in winter weather sports due to cold, speed, or falls – and can cause significant damage. Almost 200,000 injuries ranging from sprains and strains to fractures and head injuries happened in 2018 due to winter activities. It’s best to be prepared to minimize damage.
Check your gear
First, make sure you have the right gear for the sport – and that it fits properly. For skiing and snowboarding, wearing a helmet and protective eye gear is essential. Head injuries make up 20% of all the ski and snowboarding injuries in North America. Wrist guards are also important for snowboarders ; research has shown that beginning snowboarders without wrist protection are four times more likely to suffer a wrist injury than those with protection. Well-fitting ski boots and skates that are snug but not painful will also make a difference.
Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather. Frostbite and hypothermia are additional concerns that can cause injury. Consider temperature, wind, and humidity when deciding what to clothing to layer. To protect face and hands, apply petroleum jelly. Have a water bottle handy; dehydration can happen and lead to other injuries.
Warm up the body
With the loss of heat in wintertime, joints and muscles are tighter; this can reduce range of motion, make nerves feel pinched, and lengthen recovery time . Dynamic stretching can help ready the body for activity. “Warm-ups that simulate moves you’ll be performing during the workout work best,” explains fitness professional Amy Ashmore, PhD. For example, lunges and twists can help mimic movements for skiing and snowboarding; leg swings and angle rotations are similar to movements in ice skating.
The colder the temperature, the longer the warmup should be. Ten minutes for temperatures 35-45° F is adequate, and for each 10 degrees colder add another five minutes. Stimulate the blood flow before warming up by taking a light jog or brisk walk.
Skip going solo
Sports are much more fun when others are involved. In winter sports, being with at least one other person can help keep everyone safe. Buddies can watch for signs of hypothermia, and, if there is an injury, help out and seek assistance.
If a sport is a new experience, take lessons to get expert guidance. In addition to teaching fundamental skills, experts are trained to share safety tips.
Learn how to fall
The odds are that at some point during winter sports fun, a person will fall. These spills can be minor annoyances or major problems; knowing how to fall can make the difference and prevent serious damage.
Instinct may kick in and throw out the hands to break the fall, but that can damage the hands and wrists. Dr. Erin Nance, an orthopedic surgeon in New York, explains a better way to tumble. “Tuck and roll so your upper body takes the brunt of the fall,” she advises. “You’re less likely to have a catastrophic ligament tear or fracture this way.” Of course, if landing on your rear is possible, that’s also a safer option.
Know when to quit
The best advice for avoiding injuries is knowing when to quit – this is true for any sport. During the cold months, the body can tire faster because more energy is needed. Bad form, carelessness, and inattention increase with exhaustion. Dr. Nance notes, “The time you’re most likely to get injured skiing is on your last run.” Don’t be afraid to call it earlier rather than later so you can enjoy it again the next time.
Sources: CNN; University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; Aston University; Performance Health; Arthritis Foundation; Better Health