Winter sports injury prevention: Essential tips to stay safe on the ice and snow

DC area ice skating rinks are buzzing with activity, and the nearby ski resorts are gearing up to open their doors. While this is thrilling news for sports enthusiasts, it also signals a busy season for local emergency rooms and physicians.

Every year, around 200,000 people nationwide seek treatment for injuries related to winter sports. These injuries commonly include sprains, strains, dislocations, fractures, and concussions. However, with some basic precautionary measures, you can significantly reduce your risk of injury and ensure a safe and enjoyable winter sports season.

Equipment Check

Before heading out, ensure your equipment is in good condition. Your gear should match your skill level, age, and size. Damaged or ill-fitted equipment can lead to accidents. Regularly maintain and replace your gear as needed.

Warm-Up and Stretch

Cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up and stretch for at least 15 minutes before engaging in any winter sport. This will increase blood flow and flexibility, preparing your muscles for the activity ahead.

“Dynamic stretches are beneficial for muscle warm-up before skiing, snowboarding, or skating,” says Dr. Amin Amini, board-certified neurosurgeon and medical director of the Center for Brain & Spine. He suggests doing leg swings, inchworms, and lunges with a twist as part of your warm-up.

Dress Appropriately

Wear layers to stay warm, but make sure your movement is not restricted. Use moisture-wicking fabrics to keep dry and avoid hypothermia. Don’t forget protective gear such as body armor, goggles, and wrist guards.

Dr. Amini strongly recommends using a helmet that fits properly to protect your head when skiing or snowboarding. Look for a helmet engineered with MIPS, Multi-directional Impact Protection System, which is explicitly designed to provide maximal protection for the brain from impact. 

Know Your Limits

Don’t push beyond your skill level. If you’re a beginner, take lessons from a qualified instructor. Even experienced athletes need to be cautious when trying new maneuvers. Fatigue can lead to injuries, so take regular breaks and hydrate often.

Stay Alert

Be aware of your surroundings. Look out for signs of danger like thin ice or marked hazard areas. Pay attention to weather forecasts and avoid venturing out during storms or severe cold.

Follow the Rules

Winter sports areas have rules for a reason – to keep you safe. Stick to marked trails and respect boundaries. Follow the lift procedures and always yield to others. Skate in the same direction as the other skaters.

Take Injuries Seriously

In case of an injury, seek immediate medical attention. Do not attempt to continue the activity. Once treated, give your body ample time to recover.

Know the Signs of a Concussion

A concussion is a brain injury resulting from a blow to the head or body. Symptoms, such as headaches, confusion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, fatigue, temporary unconsciousness, and delayed responses, can appear immediately or may take hours or even days to manifest.

It’s important to note that concussions are often overlooked as their symptoms can be subtle and not immediately apparent, mistaken for something less severe, such as exhaustion. Dr. Amini stresses that it’s crucial to seek medical attention if head trauma or a concussion is suspected, even if symptoms seem mild or manageable. He adds that every effort should be taken to avoid any repeat head injuries after a concussion as it can multiply the impact. 

Remember, winter sports are meant to be fun, but safety should always be your priority. By following these tips, you can enjoy a thrilling and injury-free winter sports season.

Troy Petenbrink

Troy, also known as The Gay Traveler, is a well known travel and food writer. His has been a regular contributor to a variety of outlets including National Geographic, Travel Channel, DCRefined, CBS Local, and Metro Weekly. He also appears on local Washington news outlets as a travel expert.

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