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How to Avoid Winter Sports Injuries

person skiing in the mountains

Participating in winter sports is a great way to stay active during cold, grey months. Skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, and cross-country skiing are great ways to get your heart rate up and get outside, so long as you exercise caution and common sense. Make sure to prepare your body for any strenuous winter activity to avoid winter sports injuries before you hit the slopes or trails.

Winter Sports Injuries

Nearly 200,000 people were treated for injuries related to winter sports in 2018, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

  • 76,000 snow skiing injuries
  • 53,000 snowboarding injuries
  • 48,000 ice skating injuries
  • 22,000 sledding and tobogganing injuries

Common winter sports injuries include sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures. Many people injury themselves towards the end of the day, typically by overexerting themselves on a final run. A majority of these injuries are preventable. Stop when you’re tired, stay alert of those around you, and be aware of changing conditions.

Keep the following guidelines in mind if you’re planning on hitting the slopes, trails, or ice rinks:

  1. Stay in shape and strengthen your core and legs before the winter sports season.
  2. Warm up thoroughly before starting your activity. Cold muscles, tendons, and ligaments are more prone to injury.
  3. Protect yourself with the appropriate gear, such as helmets, goggles, and padding.
  4. Learn how to fall correctly, such as on your side or glutes to avoid a sharp impact on your hands and wrists.
  5. Avoid any serious activity if you’re in pain or fatigued.

Common Winter Sports Injuries

Knee and Ankle Injuries
Skiing and snowboarding are popular winter sports activities, but a nasty fall can injury your knees and ankles. An ankle sprain is often more painful and may take longer to heal than an ankle fracture. Of the nearly 130,000 skiing and snowboarding injuries reported in 2018, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are the most common. An ACL or medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear of the knee are debilitating and painful injuries, often requiring surgery. To avoid these season-ending injuries, make sure your board bindings are frequently inspected and your footwear is properly sized.

Finger, Hand, and Wrist Injuries
Unfortunately, it’s quite easy to break a finger or wrist while skiing or ice skating. Skier’s thumb is a common injury that occurs when a skier falls awkwardly on their hands while holding a ski pole. Falling in such a way can result in an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tear. Skiers can prevent this by keeping their ski pole strap below their wrist. This injury can be treated by immobilizing the thumb for four to six weeks.

Lower Back Injuries
Your muscles are constricted and not as flexible when it’s cold outside. And failing to properly warm up can result in back pain. A fall can damage vertebrae or compress the discs in the back, causing a more serious back injury. Much like strengthening your core and legs before the season, keeping your back strong all year long will give you the endurance necessary to spend a long day out in the snow.

Avoid Winter Sports Injuries

A great way to avoid winter sports injuries is to strengthen your knees, core, and back before the season begins. Jumping rope, lunges, or even stepping sideways up and down on a step are all great ways to strengthen muscles around the knees.

Properly performed squats and lunges are great basic exercises for the legs and back. If you’re not the type to go to the gym, playing basketball or tennis can improve your lateral movements.

And remember to properly stretch and warm up before performing any strenuous winter activity!

An Agile Virtual PT physical therapist can also help you avoid an injury. Our licensed PTs will perform an evaluation to determine your overall strength, endurance, and balance to identify any muscle imbalances that could put you at risk of any injury. They’ll then develop a custom treatment plan to help you prepare for your favorite winter sport. Schedule an appointment today!