With winter in full swing, it’s time to hit the slopes and the ice skating rink. Skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice hockey, ice skating, sledding, and other winter sports are great ways to stay active in the cold weather. Like all physical activity, winter sports require participants to take precautions to stay safe and healthy. Find out what are the most common winter sports injuries and how you can decrease your risk of injury.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Concussions and severe TBIs can occur even with proper safety gear. Depending on the severity of the traumatic brain injury, symptoms include unconsciousness, confusion, headache, dizziness, fatigue, thinking and memory problems, changes in mood or personality, agitation, nausea or vomiting, seizures or convulsions, difficulty waking, coordination problems, slurred speech, and weakness or numbness. Go to the emergency room if you have severe or worsening symptoms. Always seek emergency medical attention if there is loss of consciousness.
Ligament and Tendon Injury
Damaged ACLs and MCLs are the most common skiing injuries. The ligaments in the knee can easily be injured or torn as heavy boots or skates brace the ankle and momentum carries the rest of the body forward. The shoulder and wrist are also likely to sustain injuries from a fall. Unlike tears, sprains and strains usually do not require emergency medical attention. If minor, treat the sprain or strain with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Visit your healthcare provider if you are unable to use or put weight on the injured area.
The most common site of upper body ski injuries is the thumb due to improper ski pole handling. Common injuries to limbs include fractures, which require emergency medical attention, and bruises or contusions. When falling during snowboarding, ice hockey, ice skating, or other winter sports activities, it is common for people to brace the fall with an outstretched arm, but this can easily injure the wrist. In hockey, players often use their elbows when contacting other players. This can lead to bursitis, inflamed and scarred tissue.
- Wear a helmet to decrease your risk of severe TBIs.
- If skiing, have your binding tension checked annually by a ski technician.
- Take ski lessons if you are a beginner.
- Cover exposed skin with thin layers of clothing to decrease your risk of hypothermia.
- Stay hydrated.
- Go skiing in the morning when you have more energy rather than the afternoon when most injuries occur.
- Do not ski or snowboard when tired.
- Do not try runs beyond your skill level.
- Only partake in activities within your skill level.
- Make sure your equipment and protective gear fits and works properly.
- Always stretch before engaging in activity.
- Wear all necessary guards and pads when playing hockey.
- Never break a fall with open hands and extended arms.
- Tuck and roll onto one side of your upper back with balled fists if you fall while skiing or snowboarding.
- Brace yourself with your forearms rather than your wrists if you fall while skating.
- Check for blind spots and be aware of people around you.
- Check the weather and slope conditions before doing snow sports.
- Only skate on smooth, thick ice that has been deemed safe.
- Skate in the same direction as everyone else.
- Warm up on the slopes first with easy runs.
- Always have a partner with you when partaking in winter sports.
- Know the proper procedures if injury occurs.
- Stay only on marked trails on slopes.
- Wear a non-water based sunscreen.
- Remember to apply lip balm with SPF.
- Physically condition your body in the months leading up to a skiing or snowboarding trip.
Have a safe and healthy winter season! In the event of an emergency, visit your nearest CHI St. Luke’s Health Emergency Department for quality care when minutes matter.