Winter is all about snow and sports! However, if proper care isn’t taken while participating, you can end up seriously injured. Here are some of Canada’s most popular winter sports and strategies you can use to avoid injuries and keep having fun.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Skiing and snowboarding accidents can lead to various types of musculoskeletal injuries and head trauma. These injuries are often caused by sudden and swift movement and/or impact from a fall or collision.
Although you will be falling onto snow, don’t let that fool you into giving up protective gear. Wear a properly fitted helmet to protect against ski- and snow-boarding head injuries. The risk of head injuries can be decreased by up to 35% with helmet use. The use of knee pads/braces is also highly recommended as it can help reduce strains or sprains and the amount of impact force exerted on your joints during a fall. Lastly, wrist guards can be worn to protect skiers and snowboarders from wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries in the event of a fall. Wrist guards are often under-utilized despite their relation to injury prevention.
You may also want to invest in skiing and snowboarding lessons, especially if you are a beginner. Participation in classes can help you better understand or identify potential dangers/hazards (e.g. in the environment), engage in safe behaviour on the slopes and strategies to reduce your risk of injury in general.
Similar to skiing and snowboarding, many sledding accidents occur from a crash or collision. Factors contributing to these accidents may be related to losing control of the sled, going over uneven terrain, poor weather conditions or visibility, and speed. Commonly reported injuries include head injuries, fractures/contusions to the face, arms and legs, and general strains/sprains.
Some ways you can maximize your safety and to reduce your chances of injury are to:
- Check weather and track conditions
- Identify obstacles beforehand (e.g. debris, trees, fences etc.)
- Sled during the day or well illuminated areas
- Wear well fitted and proper safety gear
- Control your speed and avoid sharp turns
Hockey is the leading cause of injury related to winter sports activities in Canadian children. Knee injuries such as ACL and PCL tears, ankle sprains, shoulder dislocations and fractures are common injuries sustained by hockey players. They are also at risk of whiplash or concussion injuries due to tackles and collisions on ice. Again, wearing the right equipment can significantly reduce the risks associated with hockey and maximize player protection.
Prevention and Treatment
While sustaining injuries isn’t entirely avoidable, here are a few general principles to follow that can help prevent them across all winter sports:
Take It Easy
If you’ve spent a considerable amount of time not playing the sport, don’t jump right back in. Your body isn’t used to the physical exertion or demands of the sport. This can potentially increase your risk of injury by doing so. Ease your way into the sport by starting off with gentler practice sessions and make sure to have a comprehensive warm-up routine.
Stretching, Warming Up & Cooling Down
Don’t underestimate the importance of stretching and warming up before you begin to play. This prepares your muscles and joints for physical activity. Similarly, don’t forget to cool down after participating in a winter activity or sport to help enhance recovery and reduce the level of muscle soreness and tightness that can develop.
Be Aware & Alert
Be aware not just of your surroundings, but also of your own health. If you feel tired and physically or emotionally exhausted while playing, take a break. Overtraining, fatigue, and loss of concentration can lead to increased risk of injury.
Sports & Exercise Medicine Institute clinics assist with sports medicine and physiotherapy. Located in Thornhill, St. Claire, Sheppard, and greater Toronto, they offer a myriad of services to treat sports injuries. These include sports massage, active release techniques, and sports podiatry among others.
Get in touch with their team by calling at 1-844-223-7364 to learn more about their services!
Warda LJ, Yanchar NL. Skiing and snowboarding injury prevention. Paediatr Child Health. 2012. 17(1): 35-36.
Corra S, De Giorgi F. Sledding injuries: is safety in this winter pastime overlooked? A three-year survey in South-Tyrol. Journal of Trauma Management & Outcomes. 2007. 1:5.