For some, wintertime offers an opportunity to stay inside with a blanket and a good book. For others, though, the season brings with it the excitement of outdoor activities and sports for children and adults alike.
Hockey, ice skating, sledding, skiing, snowboarding and other cold-weather activities are a great way to get some fresh air and exercise during those long, snowy months. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has some helpful hints to avoid injuries while enjoying these pastimes.
"Vigorous activity such as skiing is important, but the cold temperatures and slippery surfaces can produce significant injuries, especially for children,” says Allan Mishra, MD, spokesperson for the AAOS and an orthopaedic sports medicine specialist. “Wearing proper clothing or protective gear and avoiding extreme weather conditions can increase safety so no one misses out on the winter fun."
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2007:
• Snowboarding was the leading cause of winter sports injuries, sending 149,388 people to hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, clinics and other medical settings.
• Skiing came in second with 131,454 injuries.
• Other sports and activities on the list include ice skating with 58,380 injuries, ice hockey with 47,594, sledding and tobogganing with 107,890, and snowmobiling with 34,699.
The Academy offers the following strategies to help prevent these winter sports injuries:
• Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are more susceptible to injury. To avoid this, do some light exercises for at least three to five minutes, then slowly and gently stretch the muscles to be exercised, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds.
• If you are avidly training in a formal sport, such as professional figure skating, ensure that the activity is led by a trained coach.
• Take frequent water breaks to prevent dehydration and overheating.
• Avoid participating in sports when experiencing pain or exhaustion.
• Never ski, sled, ice skate, snowmobile or snowboard alone.
• Know and abide by all rules of the sport in which you are participating.
• Wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding, and make sure equipment is in good working order and used properly.
• For warmth and protection, wear several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing. Layering allows you to add and remove clothing to accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature when outside or in a cold environment such as an indoor ice rink.
• Wear proper footwear that provides warmth and dryness, as well as ample ankle support.
• When falling, try to fall on your side or buttocks. Roll over naturally, turning your head in the direction of the roll.
• Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature to ensure safety.
• Become familiar with the whereabouts of fences, trees, rocks, open water and patches of ice. Stay on marked trails and avoid potential avalanche areas, such as steep hillsides with little vegetation.
• Be prepared for emergency situations and have a plan to reach medical personnel to treat injuries.