Love it or hate it, winter is coming. With it comes the potential for several types of bodily injury. Many winter accidents are caused by snow removal. Other injuries are caused by slips and falls on icy ground or by participating in winter sports. Whatever the cause, there are some ways you can minimize your risk for winter injuries. Here’s what you can do to reduce your risk–and how physical therapy can help you if an injury occurs.
Shoveling snow is one of the main causes of winter injury. According to an analysis published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 11,500 people visit emergency rooms due to snow shoveling injuries each year in the U.S. Trying to remove heavy, wet snow from your driveway or sidewalk can cause sprains and strains in your lower back and shoulders. These types of injuries are especially common for seniors and for people who do not exercise regularly.
You’re also susceptible to injuries if you use a snow blower. One common type of snow blower injury is a back injury caused by pushing a snow blower while hunched over.
How to Shovel Snow Safely
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends stretching your muscles before you start to clear out the snow. Additional tips to stay safe while you shovel include:
Lift with your legs, not with your back
Don’t fill up the shovel completely, especially if the snow is heavy
Take frequent breaks
Wear appropriate clothing
If you have a medical condition, consider hiring someone to shovel for you
Don’t twist to throw snow over your back or shoulder–push it instead
Slips and Falls
Walking on slippery sidewalks, driveways, and stairs is another leading cause of winter injury. Falls can cause upper extremity injuries, such as arm and wrist sprains and fractures, as well as lower extremity injuries, such as injuries to feet, legs, ankles, and hips. Upper extremity injuries typically occur when the person tries to catch themselves as they fall. Older adults and children are more susceptible to slipping on ice, so take extra care with these individuals.
Tips for Avoiding Icy Falls
One of the best ways to avoid winter falls is to keep foot traffic areas clear by shoveling and applying salt. Here are some more ways to stay safe:
Walk slowly and carefully
Hold on to railings
Wear appropriate shoes or boots with rubber soles
Take small steps
Avoid walking in the street if possible
Winter Sports Injuries
Many people look forward to enjoying winter sports, such as skiing, sledding, snowboarding, and ice skating. Unfortunately, these sports can cause many types of injuries. In 2015, an estimated 246,000 people were treated for winter sports injuries in the U.S. Although people of any age can become injured while participating in winter sports, a survey by Globelink found that the majority of injured people were adults ages 25 to 59. These injuries ran the gamut from fractures to sprains and strains.
Avoiding Winter Sports Injuries
One of the most important ways to avoid getting hurt when you participate in winter sports is to receive proper instruction before trying a new sport. Additional tips for avoiding injury include:
Warm-up your muscles before starting a sport
Wear appropriate clothing and gear
If you have to fall, try to land on your bottom or side
Stop participating in a sport when you’re tired
Physical Therapy for Winter Injuries
If you sustain an injury this winter, physical therapy may be able to help you. Winter injuries can often cause back pain, neck pain, shoulder problems, knee problems, and foot and ankle issues. At Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab, we treat these types of orthopedic conditions every day! Physical therapy is a great alternative to more invasive treatments, such as surgery, injections, or medication.
If you experience pain from a winter injury, give us a call at (570)208-2787, or email email@example.com. The sooner you have your injury looked at, the sooner you’ll feel better.