Staying Injury-Free This Winter: Preventing Common Winter Orthopaedic Injuries

Person slipping and falling in snowy winter park on icy path. Danger of injury.
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The winter months bring crisp, cold air, beautiful snowfall, and cherished seasonal activities. However, the slippery ice, heavy snow, and frigid temperatures also lead to an uptick in orthopaedic injuries every year. From strained muscles while shoveling to broken bones on the ski slopes, wintertime hazards result in many doctors’ visits annually.

Luckily, understanding common winter orthopaedic injuries and taking proactive preventative measures allows you to minimize your risk of harm. By taking safety precautions, using proper techniques, and seeking prompt medical care as needed, you can remain active and pain-free all winter long.

What Leads to Winter Orthopaedic Injuries?

Icy conditions, winter sports, snow removal, and cold exposure set the stage for some of the most prevalent orthopaedic issues arising during winter. Slipping on slick pavement easily causes sprains, strains, fractures, and other trauma. Attempting to brace against falls often damages wrists, arms, hips, tailbones, and heads. Back and neck injuries also frequently occur due to winter slips and falls.

Shoveling snow, an iconic winter task, brings its own array of risks as well. Lifting heavy shovel loads repeatedly strains back muscles and ligaments, resulting in acute and chronic pain. Using poor posture or improper shoveling strategies further contributes to back injuries and other unnecessary orthopaedic damage annually.

Moreover, popular winter sports like skiing and ice skating provide great exercise, but involve risks from falls, collisions, jumping, and overexertion. Some common winter sport orthopaedic injuries include fractures, dislocations, sprains, muscle strains, ligament tears, and traumatic brain injury or concussion. Knees, shoulders, wrists and heads most frequently bear the brunt of winter sport accidents.

Additionally, extremely cold winter temperatures lead to their own safety concerns, including hypothermia and frostbite. However, the frigid weather also indirectly impacts musculoskeletal health. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments tense up, lose flexibility, and become more vulnerable to strains, sprains and tears during activity. The body constricting blood flow in response to freezing air also reduces oxygen circulation, indirectly contributing to injury risk.

Effective Injury Prevention Strategies for Winter

While the potential exists for various winter hazards to cause broken bones, torn ligaments, back injury and other orthopaedic damage, you can take steps to reduce risks and stay safely active all season long.

Footwear

Investing in proper winter footwear with heavy traction minimizes slipping substantially. Take flat-footed, shuffling penguin-like steps whenever forced to walk across slick surfaces. Apply de-icers like salt or sand whenever possible to keep commonly traveled areas less treacherous. Use handrails when available and keep hands free to catch yourself when walking on frosty terrain.

Shoveling Strategies

Moreover, utilizing good shoveling strategy prevents nearly all unnecessary winter back strains and orthopaedic trauma from manual snow removal tasks. Always lift loads using full leg and arm strength to move piles, bending at the knees rather than the back. Reposition feet to pivot when redistributing snow rather than twisting the back. Take regular rest breaks and use reasonable shovel loads to prevent muscular overexertion. Wheeled push shovels allow sliding snow along the ground with minimal lifting as well. Seek assistance or snow removal help whenever feasible.

Preparation and Precautions

Furthermore, proper preparation and precautions well before winter arrives also significantly reduce injury risk during cold weather activity. Maintain good cardiovascular health and full musculoskeletal strength, flexibility and conditioning during the off-season through regular exercise. Condition any muscles needed for common winter activities you plan to participate in through weight training and stretching programs beforehand. Verify all outdoor recreation gear and sports equipment meets current standards with proper maintenance and fit. Seek professional instruction to progress athletic skills gradually while avoiding pushing beyond your current experience and capability which often causes unnecessary harm.

Listen to your body

End winter activity sessions earlier at the first sensation of overexertion, pain or discomfort rather than pushing through fatigue to complete one final run down the slopes. Similarly allow fatigued muscles adequate rest between intense sporting sessions, or other cold weather activities to prevent overuse damage. Keep muscles warm before and during winter recreation both through warm ups and insulating clothing layers donned whenever heading out into the cold.

What To Do if a Winter Orthopaedic Injury Occurs

Unfortunately, even meticulously following all injury prevention guidelines cannot always guarantee complete avoidance of winter activity mishaps. Slip and fall accidents occur suddenly. Unpredictable factors on the slopes or in the yard may still conspire to cause harm even when exercising reasonable caution.

If a significant winter orthopaedic injury occurs, making prompt arrangements to seek specialist medical diagnosis and treatment remains imperative. Any occurrence of broken bones, sprains, ligament tears, or similar trauma represents a medical emergency needing experienced professional orthopaedic assessment right away. Delaying care until symptoms worsen or pain persists longer than a couple days risks escalating damage exponentially. Contact a doctor whenever in doubt about the severity or proper management of any winter muscle or skeletal damage incurred.

Select an Orthopaedic Surgeon Equipped to Address Winter Activity Injuries

While no one ever wishes for injury to occur, readers enduring any winter-related orthopaedic damage causing persistent pain or impairment should leverage every available resource optimizing healing and recovery. Choosing the right orthopaedic surgeon makes a tremendous difference in ultimate injury outcomes. Orthopaedic physicians with specific specializations, advanced training and direct experience successfully treating particular injury types or anatomical areas deliver exceptional patient results more consistently.

For Birmingham, Alabama residents or surrounding locals suffering any injuries stemming from winter hazards this year, orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Herrick Siegel stands ready to provide top-tier treatment customized to restore health, mobility and quality of life. Please contact Siegel Orthopaedics directly to inquire about scheduling an initial appointment should expert orthopaedic care become necessary this winter.