With cooler weather settling in, a lot of us are thinking about all of the winter sports we miss out on the rest of the year. Who can resist the siren call of the slopes, or the snow-covered hiking trails, beckoning us to leave the house and enjoy a frosty day outdoors? But before you pack up your winter gear and gather your friends, consider this: according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, across the country in 2015 there were:
- 88,000 injuries from snow skiing
- 61,000 injuries from snowboarding
- 50,000 injuries from ice skating
- 47,000 injuries from sledding, tobogganing, and snow tubing
That adds up to an awful lot of winter sports injuries, many of which can be serious and require months of rest and recuperation. So how can you best avoid unnecessary pain and suffering while enjoying the great outdoors this season?
To avoid injuries, we suggest the following:
- Warm Up First
As with any exercise, winter sports require a warm up before getting really active. This helps your muscles get into action and prepare for the stress of vigorous activity. So do some stretches and take it slow at the beginning – your body will thank you for the attention later.
- Don’t Go Alone
It may be tempting to head out into the woods alone to enjoy some cross-country skiing or a hike, but don’t do it. Winter can be an especially dangerous time if you suffer a debilitating injury, due to the increased risk of hypothermia. Taking a buddy with you is your best bet, but if you insist on going alone, make sure someone knows exactly where you are planning to go and when you are expected to be back.
- Carry a Cell Phone
Having a way to contact the outside world in the event of an injury is important, and with the proliferation of technology availability there is absolutely no reason to go on an outdoor adventure without one. A cell phone can quite literally be a life-saving device for someone who has taken a fall and cannot be easily moved by a single person, so be sure to take yours with you. If you can put it in a waterproof case, even better!
- Check The Weather Before Heading Out
Knowing what conditions are expected for the day will help you prepare the right gear for your outing. It will also let you know if you should be going out at all…if the weather is bad, don’t risk it. Unstable conditions can lead to all sorts of dangerous situations, so it’s best to know before you go.
- Pay Attention To Your Surroundings
It can be tempting to get lost in the excitement of activity and ignore what is happening around you, but try to keep some sense of your surroundings. Far too many ski and snowboard injuries occur when people accidentally run into each other (or trees). Remember, you may be considerate on the slopes, but that doesn’t mean that others around you share your sense of responsibility. Keep your head up and make it through the day without an unintentional collision.
- Know Your Limits
Thinking about attempting that half-cab quadruple backflip (check out what this looks like here)? How long have you been snowboarding? Pushing yourself to expand your skills is one thing, but doing advanced moves before you are ready is a recipe for injury. We are all for having a good time and becoming a better athlete, but it’s important to know your limits…if something seems like it could end in potentially catastrophic failure, then don’t do it.
- Take Lessons
Speaking of knowing your limits, if you are new to a winter sport it is probably a good idea to take a few basic lessons before going out on your own. Lessons will provide information on how to start, stop, and slow down, as well as proper form and equipment for a safe day of activity. Once you have this basic information perfected, you can get out there and start improving your skills on your own.
- Learn How To Fall
A lot of people overlook the importance of this rule of thumb, but it cannot be understated – knowing the right way to fall in your given activity will help prevent all sorts of injuries. Winter is a slippery time of year, so you can expect to fall at least once…it happens to even the most experienced athletes. So whether you are skiing, snow boarding, sledding, ice skating, or snowshoeing, know how to hit the ground in a way that will help break your fall and prevent twisting injuries.
- Use The Right Gear For The Right Sport
Just like in every other sport, using quality equipment can help to keep you protected while you are having fun. If you are new to a sport, do your research on what equipment you will need and ask seasoned participants for advice. Not only will this prevent injuries, but it will also maximize your comfort while active.
- Take Breaks
While it may be tempting to just go all day, taking breaks will help your body to recuperate and avoid strain. Cold weather can trick us into thinking we haven’t worked very hard as sweat isn’t as noticeable. Rest assured, you are getting a workout! So take some breaks and grab some water to rehydrate every once in a while.
- If Something Hurts, Call It A Day
Don’t play through pain…that’s the easiest way to take a relatively simple strain to a complex injury. If something hurts, that is your body telling you to stop, now. Listen to your body, pack things up, and head for home.
- Always Supervise Children
This goes without saying, but children should always be supervised while participating in winter activities. Children are especially prone to getting excited and not always paying attention to their surrounding, or taking breaks when they should, so a responsible adult should always be on hand to make sure they are safe and get help quickly if it is needed.
- Watch Your Alcohol Intake
One of the best parts of hitting the slopes for a day is the occasional lodge breaks to warm yourself by the fire and maybe have an adult beverage. Be careful how much you drink, though. Alcohol can lead to dehydration and, well, let’s just say poor decision making and an inability to pay attention to your surroundings.
- Stay In Shape During The Off Season
Want to avoid injury during the winter sporting season? Then keep your self in shape during spring, summer, and autumn. Keeping your body strong and in good condition will help to support your muscles come winter, leading to less discomfort after a day of activity.
- Remember R.I.C.E.
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation – these are the four words you should remember in the event that you experience an injury. If you are experiencing pain that is not severe, this is a great first aid measure. For minor injuries, this may be all the treatment that is needed, but if you continue to experience pain and problems with mobility, then it is time to pay us a visit.
Experiencing pain from a sports injury? Give us a call at (434) 244–8412 to schedule a consultation.