When It Comes to Winter Sports, Play It Safe

Common-sense precautions can head off injuries, experts say

SATURDAY, Jan. 7, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Winter offers all kinds of outdoor fun, including skating, skiing, tobogganing, and snow boarding. But don't forget to play safe, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

In 2004, there were about 500,000 winter sports-related injuries treated at U.S. hospital emergency departments, doctors' offices, and clinics, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The AAOS offers some safety reminders for winter activities:

  • Wear all appropriate protective gear, such as goggles, helmets, gloves and padding. For warmth and protection from the weather, wear several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing. Layering allows you to adapt your clothing to your body's constantly changing temperature.
  • Warm up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Know and obey all rules of the winter sports that you take part in and make sure your equipment is in good shape and that you know how to use it properly.
  • If you're a beginner skier or snowboarder, take lessons from a qualified instructor. Learn how to fall correctly to reduce your risk of injury.
  • Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if you, or anyone in your group, experiences hypothermia or frostbite.

There are other day-to-day winter hazards you need to be aware of, the AAOS says:

  • Ice can cause serious falls. Wear proper footwear and keep your eyes on the terrain ahead as you walk. If you do feel yourself falling, try to fall on your side or buttocks. Roll over naturally, turning your head in the direction of the roll.
  • Drive cautiously. Allow plenty of time to brake as you approach stop signs and red lights. Reduce your speed in hazardous conditions.
  • Clear snow early and often to avoid having to shovel large amounts of packed, heavy snow. Don't throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side, which requires a twisting motion that places stress on your back.
  • Before you shovel, warm up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise. While shoveling, take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water.
  • If you have a heart or vascular condition, talk with your doctor about clearing snow, regardless of whether you use a shovel or a snow blower.
  • Never stick your hands in a snow blower if it jams.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more winter safety tips.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, December 2005
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