While many people hunker down inside the warmth of home during the winter months, others revel in the crisp air and anticipate long days on snowy slopes. If winter drives you outdoors, be aware that there are inherent risks to common winter activities. But you can avoid the common sprains, tears, and breaks of winter with these activity-specific pointers.
Skiing and Snowboarding: From the first snow of the season well into spring, skiers and snowboarders are ready to hit the slopes. It might seem rather benign to float across the snow during cross country or anticipate the inevitable downhill falls into powdery drift, but ski-related injuries are common and can be severe.
During preparation for ski and snowboarding season, vary your pre-season exercise training. Lift weights, do yoga, and continue cardio with a variety of sports such as racquetball, basketball, or dance. Work to improve flexibility, core strength, mobility, agility, and balance so when you hit the slopes your body is primed for the impact and twisting motions required. Also do a warm up and some stretching before getting on the chair lift. Cold muscles are susceptible to damage, even those used in working out at the gym. And as always, make sure your bindings are set to your appropriate weight and skill level.
Hiking and Snowshoeing: Hiking is both energizing and calming any time of year. During the winter months, you might take on snowshoeing as another option for hitting the trails. Either way, keep injuries at bay with basic safety precautions like wearing the right footgear, using a walking stick, and being mindful while you traverse the trail.
Mountain Biking: Hitting the trails is a great way to spike the adrenaline and get the heart pumping year round. Winter brings its own challenges with rain, sleet, ice, and snow so choose your route and gear carefully. Broken collar bones and AC joint sprains are common injuries caused by mountain biking so maintaining a strong core and balance are critical to safety. Also essential is a proper setup of your bike. Choose the right frame size and seat height for your body type. Make sure the petal depth doesn’t allow your knee to overextend at the bottom of the rotation. Also adjust your handle bars to you’re not hunching over too far (strains the back) or pushing down on the bars (hard on wrists, hands, and forearms).
Ice Skating: Especially in areas of the country that don’t have regular access to skatable ponds, ice skating is a novelty shared by many during the winter months. Avoiding injury is a challenge since falls are almost inevitable. Protect yourself with the proper gear and thick clothing that will help pad a fall. Stay close to the edge if you’re in a rink so you can grab on to soften the impact. When selecting skates, choose figure skates over hockey skates as they are a more stable option. When it comes to the slow-motion fall, keep your arms tucked in as much as possible. Bend your elbows to protect your more vulnerable wrists and if you fall backwards, try to land on the side of your buttocks where there is more cushion and fewer bones.
Sledding: Snow and sledding are ubiquitous signs of the season. Don’t let injuries damper the squeals of delight. Instead, insist on a safety protocol. Look for any obstacles in the path–and well beyond the distance you think it’s possible to travel on a sled. Avoid any slope with trees, stumps, or large rocks. Also be wary of ditches. Walk the area before sledding to check out the landscaping. Place a pad under your buttock to help with the impact from bumps. It’s best to select sleds with handles to keep you in place, but make sure to avoid entangling wrists in ropes.
Of course if you’re not looking for high-octane activities, opt for less physically demanding options like building a snowman, constructing an igloo, or making snow angels. If you have any questions about how to manage your physical therapy requirements with the activities you love in winter, just ask the team at Encore Physical Therapy. We’re happy to help.