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Slippery slopes: Avoiding winter sports injuries


It’s the most wonderful time of year…for winter sports! For a lot of us that means it’s time to dust off the ski poles, break out the ice skates and get the snowboard ready for long days on the slopes. With all the excitement that goes along with these activities, however (ice makes you move quickly, after all), it’s easy to get swept up in the moment and make mistakes that can lead to injuries.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), more than 246,000 people were treated for injuries related to winter sports in 2015. So before you lace up your favorite skates, remember to take some time to focus on safety.

Warm thoughts (and hands, feet and muscles…)

Even if you love the cold weather and think that making snow angels in your pajamas is a fun activity, keeping your body warm is important when participating in any sport—especially during the cold months when your body uses more energy to stay at a stable temperature.

Many winter sports (like skiing) require specific gear that will help keep you warm and perform your best, and a lot of these are made with special fabrics that protect you from the elements without being so bulky that you can’t move your arms (as much fun as it may be to pretend to be the Michelin Man…). Want to learn all about layering? This is a helpful guide.

Get helmet hair

It may seem like common sense for most of us, but protecting your noggin should be a top priority before any sport. “I’m still surprised at the amount of people I see on the slopes without helmets,” says Grace, a digital media specialist at Adventist Health and long-time skier, “It’s such a simple thing that you should automatically be doing—you really underestimate how hard you might hit even the smallest tree branch!”

Additionally, remember to grab your goggles, gloves and padding if your sport requires it—because snow isn’t bouncy, folks (as fun as that would be). Preventing eye injury is important, too, along with a good SPF sunscreen to help block the UV rays reflecting on all that bright white snow.

Winterize your kids (they’ll thank you later)

While they may not enjoy the idea of layering their clothing so much that they are smaller versions of the Michelin Man, it’s important to make sure your kids are warm and dry when they partake in winter sports, too. The same rules apply to kids as adults—just because Johnny and Janie are going sledding or group hiking instead of skiing or ice skating doesn’t mean they should be any less cautious or prepared. Layer, layer, layer and remember: mittens are warmer than gloves. It’s true. Really.

Don’t be a lone wolf

No matter what sport or winter activity you plan to do, it is imperative to let people know where you are going, when you will be back, and how to reach you in case of an emergency. There’s safety in numbers, so if you’re planning a wintery hike to enjoy some of God’s nature at its finest, travel with a group and ensure each person has the proper gear, water and food—simple things like this are what recently saved a college couple from certain doom when they became trapped in a blizzard while hiking the Algonquin Peak in New York. Brushing up on helpful safety tips before you go hiking could save your (and your hiking partners’) lives!

Don’t laugh in the face of danger…

Even if you’re a seasoned pro, you’re still susceptible to injuries. Being cautious of your surroundings is one of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re on the slopes or in the rink. This may not be your first “winter rodeo,” but it could be someone else’s: Be courteous and mindful of those around you at all times, because they may be less able to make quick stops or accurate turns. We’ve all been beginners at various times in our lives and we know what it’s like to unintentionally take a tumble or two—sometimes it’s hard to avoid taking your skating partner down with you—so keeping a close eye on everyone and the environment is a good policy.

Take a lesson from a pro (or two…or five)

Did you find yourself getting invited to a ski weekend and realized that you wouldn’t know the first thing about hitting the powder? “If you’re in beginner terrain, the best thing you can possibly do is take lessons,” says Christopher Verioti, D.O. and sports medicine expert at Adventist Medical Center in Hanford. Dr. Verioti says the most common winter sports injuries include twists, sprains and ACL tears related to skiing. Learning proper techniques will help train your brain to avoid these accidents in the heat of the moment.

Know when to throw in the (snow) towel

Eating a proper meal before you participate in your winter sport is crucial; you want ensure your body has enough fuel to keep it going. According to the AAOS, many winter sports injuries occur at the end of the day when people are physically exhausted but want to get in just one more run. So when you’re feeling tired, be sure to listen to what your body is trying to tell you—and if you insist on going the extra round, try to have a snack. Keep protein bars stashed in your pockets for sustained energy sources, and be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

No matter what sport you participate in this winter season, it’s important to stay safe so you can avoid injury as much as possible. Be sure to warm up, wear proper clothing and gear, get proper nourishment and stay hydrated. Be cautious and courteous to your environment and those around you. Because we all know what it’s like to “french fry” when we really mean to “pizza.” Taking safety precautions is not only the smart thing to do, but it will also ensure you get to spend as much time having fun in the snow as possible before it melts into spring.