Winter Injuries – Preventing & Treating
Winter can lead to more than a few issues. With ice on the road, snow on the sidewalk, and the cold in your bones, it’s easy to get injured in the winter. In the United States, there were almost 50,000 workplace injuries caused by various winter hazards such as ice and sleet during 2014. Each year, icy roads lead to over 75,000 injuries and almost 100 deaths, and 1 million Americans are injured after slipping or falling on ice. The statistics behind winter injury are absolutely alarming.
At the end of last winter, Christopher C. Dodson, MD of the Rothman Institute published his findings about the most common winter injuries. According to Dodson, the most common winter injuries are fractures, concussions, and sprains. Dodson also notes that shoveling snow away can lead to soft tissue injuries, bone breakage, and even cardiac arrest. Of course, these aren’t common injuries. While you absolutely can get a concussion from falling, you are much more likely to end up with bruises and scrapes.
There are ways to help prevent injuries of all kinds that should keep you healthy this winter, without forcing you to stay inside.
Preventing Winter Injuries
The Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania offers some great tips to help prevent winter injuries. The first step is to regularly fight snow and ice by shoveling and salting. Salt especially will help to melt the snow and ice away, while also adding traction to the slippery surfaces. It’s important that this is done regularly and whenever needed, as allowing things to get backed up can significantly increase your chance for injury. Once the ice and snow is layered, shoveling will become much more difficult and risky.
Remaining hydrated can be a huge help in preventing winter injuries, as well. While hot cocoa is delicious, it’s important to keep water in your system. When your body becomes dehydrated, it is more likely that lactic acid will become backed up in your muscles, which can cause cramps and put strain on the body. This greatly increases the risk for injury, as it leaves you more vulnerable to falling, as well as other injuries normally caused by stressing your muscles. By the same reasoning, you should be stretching before performing any outside activity in the winter. Even walking can require extra effort in the winter, so having your muscles adequately prepared can help.
Resting is important, as well. Many winter injuries can be prevented simply by putting the shovel down when you need to. When you push yourself beyond your limits, the unnecessary strain can lead to tears in the muscle, or (in 6% of cases) cardiac arrest.
If you are partaking in winter sports, there are a few thing you need to consider. First of all, as Christopher C. Dodson, MD notes in his article, you absolutely must wear protective gear if you’re attempting to prevent injury. As one of the most common winter sports injuries, it’s sad to note that most concussions can be easily prevented by helmets. Of course, you can still get a concussion while wearing a helmet, but in most cases the helmet simply prevented something much worse.
Winter sports are another area where you need to know your limits. You will never know how to ski, snowboard, or skate before you do it, but you need to be aware of that. If you are a skiing a hill that is beyond your level, your risk for injury greatly increases.
Finally, just be careful. It may sound generic, but it’s the truth. Most winter injuries can be prevented simply by being careful. When walking, shoveling, or doing anything outside, making sure you have the proper footing and traction will keep you out of the ER this winter.
Treating Winter Injuries
Many winter injuries, such as soft tissue injuries, can be treated at home. Of course, many of them can’t. In the event that you have broken a bone, gotten a concussion, or fractured a bone, there is no substitute for an urgent care center or ER.
There isn’t much that can be done about bruises and scrapes. If the bruise is particularly bad, elevating it at night should keep blood away from the bruise and reduce swelling. Sprains are similar. Generally, the best treatment for a sprain is to ice and keep it elevated 24 hours a day.
Some bruises and sprains are worse than they appear. If you experience numbness with a sprain, or hear a pop when the injury occurs, or if a bruise has remained for longer than normal, you should see a general physician or orthopedic doctor, as these are signs of something worse.