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Sharp Health News

Warm up before cold-weather sports

Dec. 4, 2015

Cold weather sports injuries

Just because the weather turns cold doesn’t mean you have to sit on the couch all winter. Outdoor sports can provide an excellent workout — if you stay safe.

Nearly half a million people in the United States are treated for winter sports-related injuries each year, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Common injuries include sprains, strains, tears, dislocations and fractures.

Many of these injuries can be avoided by following important safety tips, says Dr. Adnan Cutuk, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital.

A key strategy is to train before beginning winter sports. For example, three months prior to snowboarding or skiing, you should begin to incorporate workouts that focus on balance, stability and core strengthening.

“Learning appropriate warm-up routines and stretching exercises, then diligently doing them before setting off on the snow or ice, is very important to injury prevention,” Cutuk says.

Too many “weekend warriors” arrive at the slopes in the morning and begin winter sports without warming up their muscles. Fueled by excitement and adrenaline, they often try to tackle the most challenging slopes first. For this reason, one of the spikes in winter-sports injuries occurs early in the day, Cutuk says.

The second spike happens toward the end of the day when people are tired, but continue to exert themselves.

“Knowing your physical preparedness and capacity can prevent infamous ‘last run of the day’ injuries we see so often,” he says.

It’s also critical that children stay safe during winter sports, as serious head injuries can occur during cold-weather outings. Parents need to evaluate their children’s skill level and make sure they aren’t trying activities that are too challenging.

Adults should also make sure children are appropriately equipped and fitted for protective gear; often children use gear from last season that is now too small, or they receive gear that is too big in anticipation of their growth, Cutuk says. A professional should check all gear and helmets prior to use.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons offers these additional tips for adults and children to stay safe:

  • Never participate in a winter sport alone.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding.
  • Check that equipment is working properly prior to use.
  • Wear several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection. 
  • Know and abide by all rules of the sport in which you are participating.
  • Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after activities.
  • Take breaks when you need them.

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