The first snow fall is exciting. It’s a signal to strap on the skis and skates, or even jump on a sled. Days spent playing in the frosty snow can be jam packed with fun, but like any activity you need to play safely. Winter activities can lead to the same bumps and bruises of every sport, but there’s the added concern of how to safely stay outside in cold temperatures. To help with that we have compiled a few winter snow safety strategies to help you avoid some of the most common winter sport injuries.
No matter what your winter sport is, it is important to take a few minutes and make sure you know how to be safe.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. Start strength training the muscles you will need a month or so ahead of time. This will help you get into proper shape.
- Make sure you are in good physical condition for activities in the cold. If you are unsure, check with your doctor.
- Warm up with light exercise for 5 minutes before you engage in any sport.
- Make sure your equipment and protective gear is in good condition and fits well.
- Always wear the appropriate protective gear for your sport.
- Dress properly for the cold. Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia.
- Wear several layers of tops and pants under warm jackets. Wear hats and water-resistant gloves. Face masks may be necessary for very cold weather.
- Protect your eyes from snow glare with shatter-proof sunglasses or goggles with UV protection.
- Take lessons to improve your ability. Better skills will allow you to adjust to changing conditions.
- Many organizations, like the National Ski Areas Association, recommend the use of helmets for down hill winter sports to prevent head injury.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Skiing and snowboarding have their own special equipment. The right equipment and the right fit are as important as knowing what you are doing. This will reduce your risk of injury.
Here are some other things you need to know:
- Take lessons from an expert. Evidence supports that beginners are hurt more frequently. The quicker you improve, the safer you will be on the slopes.
- Stick with your abilities. Do not attempt to ski a slope that is beyond your personal abilities. Ski marked trails and observe trail signs. Rest when you get tired.
- Be sure that equipment is properly maintained and clean—no dirt or salt between boots, bindings, and the binding mechanism.
- Properly adjust bindings to reduce the chance of leg injuries. Test your ability to escape bindings by standing in the skis, then twisting to release the toe and heel pieces
- Wear the proper gear for snowboarding. This includes snowboarding pants, wrist guards, arm guards, and shin guards.
- When approaching the lift, be aware pieces of clothing that could become entangled.
- Wear a helmet specifically designed for snow sports.
- Always ski or board with a buddy.
- Know and observe all the rules about crossing a trail, passing, and stopping.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Wear bright colors.
- If you are cross-country skiing for long distances, take snacks, water, extra clothes, and first aid supplies with you. Take a cell phone if you will be skiing in a remote area.
Skating injuries often result from tripping on bumps in the ice, colliding with other skaters, and falling through the ice.
Recommendations to skaters include:
- Skate with a buddy or at least make sure there are other people around.
- Stick to shallow flooded fields and supervised areas.
- Avoid lakes, ponds, or rivers until the ice has been tested by a local official.
- Never skate close to open bodies of water.
- Supervise all small children.
- Never build fires or drive cars on ice.
- In case of a fall into icy water:
– Do not climb out right away. Kick into a horizontal position and try to slide onto solid ice.
– When out of the water, roll away and do not stand until you put several body lengths between you and the broken ice.
- To rescue others that have fallen through the ice:
– Call emergency medical services right away and do not walk up to the break.
– Use a reaching aid, such as a rope. If possible, form a human chain, each person holding onto the heels of the next person.
– If you have to go onto the ice, distribute weight by lying flat over a wide area. Try to use another reaching aid to close the distance between you and the break in the ice.
Hockey-related injuries can occur on the ice, street, field, or in the gym.
Recommendations for hockey players include:
- Always wear protective equipment. This includes helmets, pads, hockey pants, gloves, athletic supporter or cup, and neck protector.
- Make sure everything fits you properly and that it is in good condition.
- Show good sportsmanship. Do not hit other players and bystanders who happen to get in the way.
- Do not engage in fighting.
If you experience an injury while having fun on the slopes or in the rink, go see your physical therapist. A PT can evaluate your injury, start a treatment plan, and most importantly, make sure you’re able to get back out enjoying your winter sports and activities. They might even go back out with you.
by Amy Scholten, MPH
National Safety Council
US Consumer Product Safety Commission
Canada Safety Council
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Safety tips snowboarding. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/sports/safety_snowboarding.html. Updated March 2014. Accessed October 20, 2014.
Ski and snowboard safety facts and tips. National Safety Council website. Available at: http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/Resources/Pages/SkiandSnowboardSafety.aspx#.VEU6ZyLF-So. Accessed October 20, 2014.
Last reviewed July 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 10/20/2014
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