SATURDAY, Dec. 3, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- As the season of snowflakes gets underway, doctors are urging cold-weather sports enthusiasts and those working outdoors to take a few steps to ward off injury this winter.
Planning and preparation, along with proper equipment, can prevent most cold-related injuries, according to Dr. Trish Palmer, a sports medicine specialist and family medicine doctor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
One of the most common sources of wintertime injury: snow shoveling.
"It is vigorous exercise and a big strain on the back that people don't appreciate," Palmer said in a prepared statement. "The weight and position are really bad for two parts of your back. A disc could be compressed resulting in a pinched nerve. Also, the muscles in the lower back are small and easily strained."
Her first piece of advice on shoveling? Avoid it.
"Our bodies are not built to shovel snow. Get a snow blower or get a neighbor's kid to do it for you," she suggested. People who do have to shovel should start conditioning themselves for it right now.
"You need to get in shape and build up those back muscles before the snow falls," Palmer said.
The same message about getting in shape now also applies to people who enjoy winter sports. Exercising in cold weather places extra demands on the body, Palmer said. People who haven't exercised regularly before the winter are more likely to suffer an injury while skiing, skating or doing other winter activities.
She also stressed the need to wear proper clothing and protective gear while enjoying winter sports. It's also important to drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen.
The Nemours Foundation has more about winter sports safety for kids.