In the U.S. in 2014 there were 114,000 injuries from skiing, 79,000 from snowboarding, 47,000 from ice skating and 52,000 from sledding and tubing. Here are a few things to keep in mind to try and stay safe this winter sports season.
Warm up thoroughly. Wear protective gear including goggles, helmets, gloves and pads. Check equipment prior to use, and consider having your ski or board bindings checked by a professional each year. Learn how to properly get on and off a ski lift. Dress in layers that are light and water/wind resistant and wear proper footwear with appropriate ankle support. Learn how to fall correctly! If you’ve never participated in a sport before, take a lesson to learn the basics first. Listen to weather reports about upcoming storms or severe temperature drops. Drink plenty of water before, during and after activities. Avoid participation if you are in pain or exhausted already as this is when people are most prone to injury.
Just planning on doing some local sledding? The majority of these injuries happen to those under 14 years of age. Make sure an adult is available to supervise. Make sure the end of the run isn’t into a street, parking lot, pond or other dangerous area. Helmets should be worn by those under 12 as head and neck injuries are common if the sled hits a fixed object. Avoid sledding on public streets – the cars and trucks there are not expecting to have to avoid an oncoming sled. Make sure you sit facing forwards, but not headfirst, on the sled. Do not run and jump onto the sled, this will not allow for steering.
Pay attention if your fingers or toes or limbs become numb, this is an early symptom of impending frostbite. If you think you or someone with you has frostbite seek medical care as soon as possible. If there is no medical care immediately available do the following:
Go inside to a warm room. Drink something warm such as broth or tea. Rest the injured area and remove any wet or restrictive clothing. GENTLY rewarm the affected area. TO do this immerse in warm, but not hot, water for 30-45 minutes or until the area feels warm and numbness improves. This may be painful and the affected area may swell or undergo color changes. Leave any blisters intact and cover them loosely with a clean cloth or dressing. DO NOT rub or massage the affected area. DO NOT walk on frostbitten feet. DO NOT use dry heat i.e. a heating pad, fire, blow dryer, radiator etc. The skin is numb and can therefore be easily burned.
Enjoy the winter, but remember to be safe! It’s usually easier and definitely more pleasant to prevent injury than to have to treat injuries.