How To Stay Safe This Winter

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Winter is a great time of year to be outdoors! Whether you like snowboarding, skiing, sledding, ice skating, hockey or just building snowmen, winter sports are a terrific way to stay fit and enjoy time with friends and family. Just keep in mind, however, that there are inherent dangers involved in many winter sports and special precautions should be taken to prevent injuries.

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we see a lot of winter sports-related mishaps, more than we’d like to. That’s why we’ve put together these guidelines to help our patients and their parents avoid injury while enjoying the great outdoors this winter.

Many emergency room visits are caused by winter sports injuries

Lauren Adler_02R WEB72

Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

In 2010, there were 440,000 visits to the emergency room due to accidents during winter sports, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The number and causes of these emergency room visits in detail:

  • 148,000 injuries due to snowboarding
  • 144,000 injuries due to snow skiing
  • 58,500 injuries due to ice skating accidents
  • 91,000 injuries from sledding and tubing

5 ways to stay safe and prevent injury while participating in winter sports

1. Dress for winter

Nobody has fun when they are freezing cold. But more importantly, hypothermia is a common factor in many emergency room visits. The #1 way to prevent hypothermia is to stay warm and dry, and the best way to do this is to wear layers, particularly light synthetic materials under a water-resistant, wind-resistant jacket. A tried-and-true rule of thumb is that “cotton kills.” When you sweat and your cotton shirt, undershirt or sweater gets wet, it can no longer keep you warm. Instead, choose other materials, such as wool- and nylon-based synthetics, that actually do keep you warm even when wet.

Symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • confusion
  • memory loss
  • slurred speech
  • drop in body temperature below 95 degrees Farenheit
  • exhaustion or drowsiness
  • loss of consciousness
  • numb hands or feet
  • shallow breathing
  • shivering

If you or anyone you are with shows signs or symptoms of frostbite or hypothermia, seek shelter and medical attention immediately.

2. Wear appropriate protective gear

When you are skiing, snowboarding or snow tubing, we highly recommend that you wear a helmet. Why? Helmets have been proven to prevent traumatic brain injuries and save lives. Also, to keep your face warm and protected, ski goggles are a must. When snowboarding, it is also very important to wear wrist protection.

3. Never go out alone, especially in winter

When skiing, snowboarding, hiking or sledding, it is absolutely imperative to stay with a group or at least one other individual. Many mountain areas are very isolated and may not have cell service. If you sustain an injury and you’re alone, you run the risk of developing hypothermia, which in extreme cases can be fatal. If you take a buddy along, it is not only fun, but safe.

4. Warm up before you hit the slopes

Skiing and snowboarding are very physical sports. Warming up your muscles before you hit the slopes is an important way to prevent injuries to muscles and joints. This is even more important when the temperatures are very low. Before your first run, at the top of the lift, jog in place for a few minutes and then stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps. This will not only help prevent injury but also post-activity muscle soreness.

5. Play by the rules

Mountain resorts take great care to keep their patrons safe. Therefore, it is very important to follow the rules of the mountain. If a sign indicates a trail is closed, stay off that trail. Trails are closed because they are not safe to ski or snowboard there. Also, be aware of your surroundings and yield to uphill skiers and snowboarders. Collisions can be very dangerous, but if you’re careful they can be avoided.

Above all, enjoy this winter, get out there and have fun!

If your child has a winter sports-related injury, come see us

If your child has been injured while participating in winter sports, or if you would like more information about how to prevent or treat a winter-related injury, please come in and see one of our pediatricians at Westchester Health Pediatrics. We’ll examine and diagnose the problem and together, determine the best course of treatment.

Make an appt

By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

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About the Author: ML Ball