Winter time is here, and while wintertime sports and activities are fun and festive, they can also be pretty dangerous. Many winter activities revolve around snow and ice, which can spell disaster for athletes. Additionally, the cold temperatures can exaggerate the severity of many injuries. However, there are a variety of precautions that you can take to avoid these slippery situations. Here is our list of some of the most common winter sports injuries and how to treat them.
While technically a condition and not exactly a sports injury, it’s one of the more common issues for winter athletes, and arguably one of the most serious ones. Frostbite happens during the body’s efforts to keep its core warm in extreme conditions. The blood in smaller appendages, such as the toes and fingers, rushes to the core of the body to protect vital organs, restricting blood flow and forcing the tissue in these smaller appendages to freeze. When frostbite gets severe enough, amputation can be necessary. To avoid this, always dress appropriately for the weather, and stay as dry as you can to prevent your internal body temperature from dropping too low.
Winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, or hockey include spending a good bit of time on ice and snow; a slippery ordeal. This can lead to a lot of dangerous falls, sometimes resulting in a significant blow to the head, or concussion. After one of these blows, it’s important to check for signs of a concussion.
If you or someone you’re with is experiencing any of the following symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately:
- Blurred vision
- Swelling at the site
Knee injuries are very common in winter sports athletes, especially skiers due to the dynamism of their movements. In fact, knee sprains are the most common injury among skiers. While especially common in skiers, slippery winter conditions can cause knee injuries for anyone. A slip can cause your leg to bend incorrectly leading to injuries such as sprains and ACL tears. These injuries are also common in ice skaters, particularly figure skaters, because of their elaborate footwork that lends itself to collapsing.
Depending on the severity of the injury, solutions can be as simple as rest and ice for a twisted knee, or as severe as joint replacement surgery for shattered joint material. Sprains are often treated with orthotic braces that provide support to the injured area and allow it to heal with ideal bone and joint placement.
Skiing can also lend itself to thumb, hand, and wrist injuries. You use your thumbs and wrists a lot during skiing for pole maneuvering. A common injury in this area of the body is a tear in the connective ulnar collateral ligament. This injury is referred to as skiers thumb. It most commonly happens when falling onto an outstretched hand, as you would if you fell while skiing. It’s categorized by pain and swelling at the base of the thumb, and inability to grasp with the affected thumb. This is the second most common injury for skiers, second only to the aforementioned knee sprains.
While you should always consult with a doctor before any kind of treatment, much of the time, this condition can be treated at home with rest and ice. In more severe cases, a suture anchor is implanted to aid in the healing process.
Pulled muscles are among the more minor on our list of winter sports injuries, but they’re very common and should definitely be addressed. While they are temporary and usually require little medical intervention, they can be especially painful. The cold air during the winter makes your body particularly prone to these, as cold muscles are easier to strain than warm ones. Warmth increases pliability, which in turn decreases your chances of a muscle injury. Stretch beforehand to help lower your risk, and if you are unfortunate enough to experience a pull, rest is the most important factor to healing.
Winter Sports Tips
There are a few general tips to remember when performing winter activities. Wear lots of layers to keep yourself warm. This is especially true for your socks and shoes. Always wear appropriate footwear to avoid unnecessary slips and falls. Always try to do these activities with a companion, so that you’re never stranded in the cold in the event of an injury or an emergency where you’re unable to walk. Additionally, stretch and “warm-up” before heading out for winter activities and take regular breaks to avoid overexertion.
If you’re suffering from a sports injury, the professional team at The Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre can help! Book an appointment today!