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Winter Sports Safety

Now that winter is here it is important to try to enjoy the outdoors while trying to stay healthy. Usually, in my practice, the winter time results in a significant increase in upper extremity injuries. Here are a few tips on how to have fun, stay outdoors and stay healthy!

Warm up before going “all out”.

Winter sports often use different sets of muscle than activities that one participates in warmer weather or the gym. Even if you run and bike outdoors, winter sports often require different muscle capabilities and a different type of balance. Therefore go slow and make sure you warm up before you go “all out”. Stretching and flexibility exercises are helpful to do before and after activities as well. Stretching will help push out the lactic acid that develops during intense sports sessions such as skiing. Don’t forget to hydrate!

Watch your hands!

You can predict the unpredictable. For example, in snowboarding when the feet are fixed on to the board, falls expose the head and the upper extremities in particular. Wear a helmet to protect your head. Wear wrist guards to protect the wrist. As I think back on all the wrist fractures that I have taken care of with snowboarders, there has never been a case were someone who had been wearing a wrist guard has come into the office with a wrist fracture. Although wrist guards are not always on the list of safety equipment that is promoted at the resorts or ski/ snowboarding slopes, I believe that they significantly reduce the risk of serious wrist injury for the beginning and even the experienced snow boarder.

Skier’s thumb is a hazard!

Skiers thumb is an injury sustained when either falling on the outstretched thumb or having the web space between the thumb and the index finger stretched by either a direct fall or from becoming entangled in ski equipment. This injury is difficult to prevent, although using strapless polls that have rubber handles or guards to hold the ski poll grip to the hand are recommended ways to reduce the likelihood of injury.

Although falls can be unavoidable they can be minimized by proper warm up, keeping your equipment in good condition, and working up slowly to you level of ability. I personally think that avoiding “the last run”, where muscles are already tired and one can exceed the level of one's ability and comfort level is a good way reduce injury while enjoying winter sports outdoors.

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