Avoiding Winter Sports Injuries

Jan 11, 2017
Photo by: Donated photo Dr. Matthew Massey

It's a new year, and many of us are making plans to be more active, get in better shape, or try out a new sport. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are treated for injuries related to winter sports such as snow skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and sledding.

Common winter sports injuries include sprains, dislocations, and fractures. Knee injuries are very common, particularly injuries of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Head injuries also occur and can be serious. Many of these injuries occur at the end of the day, when people overexert themselves to finish that one last run. A majority of these injuries can easily be prevented if participants prepare for their sport by keeping in good physical condition, staying alert, and stopping when they are tired or in pain.

Dr. Massey is an expert in arthroscopic foot, ankle, and knee surgery.  He trained at the prestigious Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado where he worked with experts in the field of winter sports injuries.

Here are his strategies to help prevent injury during your favorite winter activities.

•Never participate alone in a winter sport. Ski/ride with partners and stay within sight of each other. If you get ahead of your partner, stop and wait.

•Maintain fitness and keep in shape to condition muscles before participating in winter activities.

•Warm up thoroughly before playing or participating. Cold muscles, tendons, and ligaments are vulnerable to injury. Take a couple of slow runs to complete your warm up.

•Wear appropriate 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.

• Take a lesson (or several) from a qualified instructor, especially in sports like skiing and snowboarding. Learning how to fall correctly and safely can reduce the risk of injury. Even experienced skiers/riders can improve by taking a lesson. Choose ski runs that match your ability level.

• Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature.

• 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. Even mild levels of dehydration can affect physical ability and endurance.

• Avoid participating in sports when you are tired or in pain.

• Parents play an important role in educating their children about safe winter sports practices. They should help their children avoid terrain that is beyond their ability, encourage professional instruction, and recommend routine rest breaks with rehydration. It is also important to caution children against improper speeds and the risks of off trail and closed areas.

Even with these strategies accidents and injuries can happen. Carolina Hand and Sports Medicine, is here to support you in all of your endeavors in 2017.