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How To Avoid The Most Common Winter Injuries

Posted by Michael Jackness on

Having a love-hate relationship with the winter season is not uncommon.

One one hand, the first snowfall of the season is pretty spectacular. Gotta love it. Then there’s skiing, tubing and ice skating--- stuff you don’t get to do at any other time of the year. Winter is also the best excuse to grab a comforting mug of hot chocolate every now and then.

On the other hand, people hate winter because...well, it’s winter: everything is dark, cold and slippery.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these unfavorable weather conditions are the primary reason why a lot of accidents happen during the wintertime.

The US Department of Labor recorded more than 40,000 work-related winter injuries in 2014 alone. A huge chunk of these numbers involves slipping and falling due to ice, sleet or snow.
Motor vehicular accidents, strained backs from all that shoveling and even concussions from winter sports are just some of the unfortunate incidents that can happen during the winter. These situations are pretty common, so we’ve listed tips on how to avoid getting injured during this cold and freezing season:

 

Slips and Falls

According to the Department of Labor, slips, and falls from the same level accounted for around 82% of total work-related winter injuries back in 2014. A significant percentage of these injuries happen in the parking lot.

These numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise: ice and snow can turn any surface slippery. Black ice is especially difficult to see. These conditions pose a significant risk to older adults who are prone to have brittle bones. One wrong fall could result in serious fractures or herniated discs.

Here are a few tips to prevent slips and falls during the winter:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Areas that freeze, melt and freeze back up again are especially risky.
  • Wear proper footwear that would provide enough traction so you won’t slip or fall even when it’s snowing out.
  • Take slow, even steps if needed. Don’t run.
  • Make sure to properly salt and de-ice your walkways.


In case you do fall or slip, apply the RICE method of first aid. RICE stands for

Rest
Ice
Compress
Elevate

Resting, elevating and applying a cold pack to the area for 20 minutes within the first 24 hours of injury can significantly reduce pain and swelling.

 

Shoveling All That Snow Can Hurt Your Back

Sure, the first snowfall of the season can be pretty breathtaking, but after days of endless snowing, it becomes a pain in the back...literally.

Shoveling snow has caused bad backs, sprains, fractures and even heart problems, according to a study. The same study states that around 195,000 Americans have landed in the ER from 1990 to 2006 because of all that shoveling.

The key to safe shoveling is in employing proper body mechanics. Never let your back do the work as this can cause muscle strain. Instead, bend at the knees and lift that load using your leg muscles.

Make sure to use snow shovels that are just the right size. A bigger shovel might cover more surface area, but it can be heavier and thus will require more effort. You can also rig your snow shovel with this simple but very effective hack to keep your back straight and avoid your muscles from getting strained:



At the end of the day, give those sore muscles a treat through a relaxing massage or by applying hot and cold packs to the area.

 

Take It Easy On The Winter Sports

Winter sports like snowboarding, ice skating, skiing and ice hockey are fun until you break something. Don’t get us wrong--- winter sports provide great exercise. It’s just that doing them the wrong way can lead to sprains, dislocations, fractures, and concussions.

Outdoor winter recreational activities account for thousands of injuries annually, with skiing being the leading cause of injury. When done without proper supportive gear, these high-impact and repetitive activities can often lead to knee injuries like torn ACLs. Recovery from a torn ACL tendon will require weeks of rest or in some cases, surgery when it’s totally ruptured.

Concussions or fractures can also occur, especially if one has a bad fall.

Here are some tips to avoid accidents and to make your time outdoors more enjoyable:

  • Proper warm-up and preparation is a must. Make sure to stretch before engaging in any strenuous activity.
  • Always wear the right type of clothes and safety equipment. Make sure they fit well and offer necessary support, especially to weight-bearing joints like the knees and ankles. Don’t forget to wear a helmet or mask if needed.
  • Go at your own pace. Don’t try complicated tricks or high slopes if you’re not too confident that you can do them in proper form. It’s so easy to twist a knee or land badly this way. 
  • Stay hydrated! These activities are exhausting, so make sure to replenish your lost fluids. Staying hydrated also reduces the risk of muscle cramps.
  • Know how to fall safely. Falls and slips are part of winter sports, so make sure you know how to fall safely. Protect your head by tucking your chin down and use your arms to cushion your head. Avoid landing on your front or back by turning as you fall. Rolling also helps lessen the impact of falling. 
  • Seek medical help when you suspect a concussion. A concussion is the top injury related to ice hockey. Concussions can lead to serious problems and can progress to coma and even death in some cases, so it’s really important to treat them promptly and properly.

 

Stay Warm To Avoid Cold Injuries

The northern hemisphere has had some of the coldest winters in recent history. According to the CDC, thousands of Americans die due to hypothermia or excessive exposure to cold each year, so make sure to stay warm during wintertime.

Dress properly in layers. Make sure your base layers are made of wicking fabric to help keep the sweat off your skin. Stay away from cotton during these months--- they tend to stay wet for long periods of time. It’s also wise to invest in warm outer layers made from a material like down and wool to keep you warm. Don’t forget to wear a hat to keep the heat from escaping through your head.

 

Be Careful On The Road

Much like walking on snow and slipping on black ice, driving vehicles is also quite risky during winter. Make sure to prepare your vehicles for cold conditions by checking the following:

  • Your anti-freeze. Make sure they’re of the right proportion.
  • Your tires. Switch to winter tires for better traction while on the road.
  • Your car’s heating system.
  • Your windshield wipers and defrosters.
  • Your winter car kit which should ideally include flashlights, spare batteries for electronics, a small shovel, and windshield ice scrapers, among other things.


Keeping these things in check provide a safer drive. Motor vehicular accidents in the winter are unfortunately very common and they often result in damage to health and property. To avoid any accidents, make sure you and your vehicle are ready for the winter.

 

Final Thoughts

Some people love winter, others just hate it with a vengeance. Whatever your feelings are, don’t forget to stay safe and healthy during these freezing months. Nasty weather conditions can often lead to accidents. A day of fun at a ski resort can quickly turn into a painful or tiring experience if you’re not careful. Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to avoid these incidents. We hope that these tips were helpful in making your winter an enjoyable and comfortable one!

Anything else we missed? Let us know in the comments below.


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