How to Avoid Common Winter Injuries

Slip and Fall 

If you’ve experienced an injury or pain while performing a wintertime activity, you are not alone. Personal injury during winter is likely to occur from performing simple activities, especially if you aren’t prepared to prevent an incident.  The good news? Preventing winter injuries is possible, and you can enjoy the season without unnecessary pain and stiffness.

what are the most common winter injuries?

Winter weather conditions bring with them a variety of potential risks for personal injury, as well as injury to others. Some of the most common winter incidents that lead to personal injury include:

  • Falling on ice and snow

  • Experiencing muscle strain from shoveling snow or scraping ice off the car

  • Accidents while playing winter sports and activities

SLIPPING AND FALLING ON ICE AND SNOW

Anyone is in danger of injuring themselves by falling or slipping on ice or snow, but seniors are especially at risk. In fact, according to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury among older Americans, and winter weather conditions only exacerbate that concern.

There are a variety of potential injuries that can occur from falls on ice, but the most common include the following:

  • Bruises

  • Head or brain injuries, including concussions

  • Ankle strains and twists, and other kinds of muscle sprains and ligament strains

  • Broken bones, most commonly hip and wrist fractures

  • Back injuries, including spinal compression fractures

  • Injuries to the spinal cord

Prevention is always the best method to avoid a slip or fall on icy days, and there are a few things you can try to keep you and your family safer:

  • Wear proper footwear made for icy and snowy conditions.

  • Keep your stride shorter and avoid long steps.

  • Slow things down — try not to rush or run outdoors.

  • Keep de-icer or sand on hand for when things get slippery around your house.

  • In case of injury, always have your cell phone handy.

  • If you need to do outdoor chores, take your time and don’t hurry.

Unfortunately, even with the best preventative measures, accidents happen.  If the fall is serious, you may need to call 9-1-1 or go to the ER immediately.  However, some people are unaware that they have a severe injury. This may be because they don’t feel the effects of the fall immediately, or they believe their pain and discomfort will pass with time. Symptoms like pain or swelling should not be ignored, and it’s important to seek the advice of a medical professional to assess your condition.

SHOVELING SNOW

One of the most loathsome winter jobs is shoveling the driveway and sidewalk. It can take a long time and require a lot of physical exertion. The low temperatures make the task of shoveling snow even more unpleasant. The repetitive actions of twisting and lifting while shoveling can cause severe strain on the body. All it takes is one muscle to be pulled the wrong way for your back, neck or shoulders to seize up.  Follow these tips to shovel safely:

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking

  • Take it slow and stretch out before you begin

  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; it's lighter

  • Push the snow rather than lifting it

  • If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel

  • Lift with your legs, not your back

  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion

  • Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 911 if you're experiencing any of them; every minute counts

SENIORS

Like children, seniors are also at a higher risk of slipping and falling on icy pavement. Seniors can easily lose their footing and take a fall that can put them in severe danger. Seniors who have suffered in the past from hip injuries could further damage their hips or back. Seniors should be accompanied and helped down driveways and across parking lots to ensure they are stable and have the support to walk safely. Seniors with mobility issues may want to consider motorized scooters during the winter months for extra safety precautions.

winter injury prevention tips

Though many of these winter accidents can be quite common, they are easy enough to prevent by following specific steps.

  • Thoroughly and regularly salt driveways, sidewalks and stairs

  • Walk carefully across parking lots and provide children and seniors with additional support

  • Stretch before performing any physical exercise

  • Stay hydrated while exercising and shoveling snow

  • Ensure proper footing when shoveling snow or scraping ice off the car

  • Wear a helmet and protective equipment during winter sports

  • Always supervise children playing outdoors in the snow

  • Before shoveling or scraping, make sure to properly stretch

(Source: Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania)