Every sport comes with a degree of risk and possibility for injury, but winter sports can be especially brutal on the body. Given the fact that many winter sports involve speed and slick, hard surfaces such as flattened ice, winter sport athletes need to take preemptive measures to minimize the risk of injury and the impact of falls. Here are some of the most common winter sport injuries and some tips on how to avoid them.
Racing down a hill on a device with metal blades is incredibly fun… but also risky. In fact, sledding is the winter sport that involves the highest risk of injury. Sledding is often performed in the back woods, on uncharted courses, and often done by folks with little or no experience. As a result, head injuries are a major problem, as are injuries caused by collisions with other sledders, trees and rocks.
Hockey players are used to injuries such as cuts, bruises and sprains, and playing a contact sport on a surface that is nearly as hard as a rock is a daunting task any way you slice it. Injuries involving a flying puck are also common, especially for goalies. Many hockey players incur knee injuries at some point during a typical season as a result of the physical demands of balancing on a thin blade. (Not to mention fist fights… but really most injuries are puck or ice related.)
Skiing & Snow Boarding
Even though they don’t like being lumped together, skiers and snowboarders are next on the list of the most oft injured winter sports athletes. Many of these injuries are a direct result of losing control on the slopes. Fingers, wrists and elbows are especially susceptible to injury, as the natural human instinct to break the fall with your hands often causes them to take the brunt of the force. Skiers deal with knee and ankle injuries much more often than snowboarders as a result of the legs being independent of one another.
Winter Sports Injury Prevention
- Helmets - Many winter sports involve speeds of well over 40 miles per hour, making a helmet an absolute must. In fact, protecting your head is the single most important injury prevention measure for any athlete that is engaged in winter sports. Everyone from hockey players to snowboarders to ice skaters can greatly benefit from wearing helmets.
- Bracing – Human instinct is to stop a fall with your hands which can lead to wrist sprains and breaks. Wearing a wrist support or brace can help to prevent these types of common wrist injuries. Likewise, if you have injured knee ligaments in the past, it is highly recommended that you wear a hinged knee brace to keep your ligaments and knees tracked. Winter sports are infamous for ligament tears.
- Pads - Covering your body with the proper series of protective pads is essential to keeping the pain out of accidents and falls. The proper padding can be the difference between a hockey puck shot at 100 miles-per-hour being stopped by flesh and muscle or being stopped by two inches of foam. As a result, hockey players wear large suits of padding that cover almost every square inch of their upper and lower bodies. Smart snowboarders and skiers have been embracing the benefits of pads for decades, and wrist, elbow and knee pads are among the most common.
- Awareness - Having a general awareness of your surroundings will help keep you out of dangerous positions and minimize your chance of getting hurt while playing a winter sport. A little common sense and environmental awareness will go a long way to keeping sledders, hockey players, skiers and snowboarders safe.
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