The mornings are chilly, the sun is setting earlier, and the holidays are fast approaching. That means winter sports will be starting up soon! Whether you ski, snowboard, ice fish, or ice skate, these are all great ways to stay active during the winter. While winter sports are fun, the most important thing about all these activities is to use caution and common sense when participating in them. Whether you’re one of the millions of Americans who participate in winter sports, or if you end up hibernating most of the winter with some occasional shoveling, keep reading. Staying healthy and preventing injury this winter will help you have more fun in the snow.
Common Winter Injuries
There are so many creative ways to injure yourself– especially when ice and snow are involved! Some common winter sports injuries are concussions, overuse injuries, sprains, fractures, knee injuries, and skier’s thumb, to name a few. Whether you’re on the slopes or shoveling the driveway, these are some of the most common winter sports injuries we see at the clinic.
A concussion is an injury caused by a blow to the head or violent head and body shaking. A concussion can happen while playing in any sport in any season. Each year, an estimated 23,500 concussions occur every year due to winter sports. Head injuries account for approximately 20% of all injuries that occur while snowboarding and skiing, with 22% of these injuries being severe enough to cause a concussion or loss of consciousness. Some ways to stay safe and avoid head injuries while enjoying winter sports are the following:
- Always wear a properly fitted helmet while skiing, snowboarding, or skating. Be sure to inspect the helmet before and after each use to ensure it is still in tip-top shape. If you notice any chips, cracks, or dents, it’s time for a new helmet.
- Take breaks when you’re tired. So many injuries happen due to exhaustion! If you’re too tired, take a break.
Signs of a Concussion
Concussions can’t always be avoided, so if you or any of your teammates experience a head injury, it’s vital to ensure they do not have a concussion. Sometimes, people who have a concussion may feel fine, so always check for signs of brain injury. Some signs of a concussion or brain injury are:
- Blurred vision
- Swelling at the injury site
One of the most common reasons athletes get injured is due to overuse injuries. Overuse injuries happen when damage to a bone, muscle, ligament, or tendon is caused by repetitive stress without allowing the body to heal. Some of the most common overuse injuries are runner’s knee, shin splints, Plantar fasciitis, knee ligament injuries, lower back pain, etc. The list goes on! To prevent overuse injuries, you must let your body rest and recover.
Skier’s thumb is a condition that commonly affects 8-10% of skiers and is an injury of the soft tissue that connects the bones of your thumb together. In some cases, the ligament can tear completely, and in those instances, Skier’s Thumb would require surgery. With proper care and rehabilitation, most people with the condition can go back to skiing in no time.
Preventing Skier’s Thumb
The best way to prevent Skier’s Thumb from developing is by dropping ski poles during a fall. The #1-way skier’s thumb forms is during falls, so when you fall, the best way to do so is with an outstretched hand without the poles in your hands. It’s also essential to use ski poles with finger grooves and ones without wrist straps attached to them.
Symptoms of Skier’s Thumb
Symptoms can display minutes to hours after a fall. Some of the symptoms of Skier’s Thumb are:
- Pain at the base of the thumb in the webspace between thumb and index finger
- Swelling of your thumb
- Inability to grasp or weakness of grasp between your thumb and index finger
- Tenderness to the touch along the index finger side of your thumb
- Blue or black discoloration of the skin over the thumb
- Thumb pain that worsens with movement in any or all directions
- Pain in the wrist (which may be referred pain from your thumb)
If you display any of the following symptoms after a fall, you should get to an emergency room or an orthopedic surgeon.
Fractures and Sprains
While fractures and sprains can happen to anyone, ankle sprains and fractures are incredibly common for those participating in winter sports. There’s a condition so common amongst snowboarders that it is known as Snowboarder’s Ankle. Snowboarder’s Ankle is the common term for a Talus (LPTF) lateral process fracture, often overlooked initially and misdiagnosed as a severe ankle sprain.
While fractures typically need a cast for six weeks and may even need surgery depending on the fracture’s complexity, sprains usually require rest, ice, and elevation. Physical therapy is helpful in both cases and can help speed up recovery times while helping you get stronger.
The knees do a fantastic job of keeping us moving and absorbing the shock of our bodies moving every day. Whether you’re a skier, snowboarder, or skater, all of these winter sports can cause knee injuries. Some of the most common knee injuries we see in the clinic are:
- ACL tears
- Meniscus tears
- Fractured kneecap
- Dislocated kneecap
If you suspect you have any of the above injuries, contact your doctor or physical therapist as soon as possible. Depending on the type of injury and the severity, you may need to go to the emergency room.
We can help you with winter sports!
Don’t let injuries get in the way of your winter fun. Want to get stronger before participating in any winter sports? Consult with your physical therapist to develop a customized plan of care to help build your strength and endurance. If you’ve injured yourself while participating in winter sports, we can also help you with your recovery. If you or someone you know is injured while participating in winter sports, give us a call at 973-400-3730 or click here to schedule an appointment today.