Holiday season is here! And what better way to spend a bright, winter’s day than hitting the slopes or the rink? But be careful! Last year more than 245,000 people were treated for winter sports-related injuries, from skiing to skating, so this year follow our advice and avoid spending the snowy season in bed.
Skiing and Snowboarding
These are the two most common injury-causing winter sports, from strains and sprains, to bad falls, to collisions, the opportunities for injury on the slopes are numerous, but there are a few key things you can do to prevent any serious damage. Falling badly can lead to ACL and MCL damage by putting strain on, or twisting, your knees. If you throw your arms out to break your fall, it can also lead to wrist injuries, “skier’s thumb”, shoulder dislocations or rotator cuff tears. Therefore, it is imperative that you learn to fall correctly – tuck your arms in and roll with the fall, rather than fighting against it. Aim to somersault or land on your side or buttocks as this will spread the impact. It is also vital that you check and double-check your bindings, and have a ski mechanic do a release check – it could be the difference between another day on the slopes or the rest of the season laid up in bed.
Skating and Ice Hockey
The best way to keep safe on the ice is to make sure you have the right equipment. Figure skates for figure skating and, for ice hockey, everything from hockey skates and gloves, to kneepads and eye glasses. Rather than falls, the most common injury for skaters is collisions – with other skaters, with equipment, or with the ice itself. These can lead to bruising, pulled muscles, ligament tears and cuts or, more seriously, broken teeth and bones, dislocations, and concussions. If you do not wear the proper protective kit, your risk of these injuries increases tenfold. No player should be allowed to participate in a hockey game until they have demonstrated basic skating skills and the rules against checking from behind or to the head should be enforced at all times.
Sledding and Tobogganing
The cardinal rule for sledding is: do not go down face-forwards. However much more fun you believe it will be, the fun will only last until you run into something. Common sledding injuries include head and limb trauma, including concussion, and the variety of bumps, bruises and cuts sustained when you fall off or collide with something. The ways to avoid sledding injuries are fairly simple. Be sure to pick a hill which is free from obstacles, with plenty of space at the bottom, and well away from parking lots or bodies of water. Ideally, you should use a proper sled with runners and some way of steering it but, in any case, you should never improvise with sheet plastic or other thin material which could be pierced by rocks or twigs. Safest of all, is to wear a thick coat and a helmet, which should protect you from the majority of potential injuries.
As with all sports, whatever the season, there are a few general rules which can be applied to all, and which will help you make the most of your winter season.
1. Drink water. Just because it is cold, does not mean you are immune from dehydration – engaging in any activity will cause your body to warm up, so make sure to drink lots of water before, during, and after your exercise.
2. Wear the right kit. Whether this is a helmet, the appropriate footwear, or simple a number of light, water- and windproof layers to keep you warm, this equipment and clothing is designed to keep you safe, so use it.
3. Stay in shape. The healthier your body is all-year-round, the stronger it will be, and the less likely you are to hurt yourself. Going from no exercise at all, straight onto the most advanced ski slope or into a lively game of hockey, is a recipe for disaster.
4. Warm up. As with any sport, it is crucial that you warm up gradually and don’t just jump right in. Do some basic exercises and warm-up stretches, holding each for 30 seconds, then do a few laps or an easy run before moving onto the harder stuff.
5. Know when to stop. Feeling sore? Feel a twinge? Feeling tired? That is your body trying to tell you something, and it generally isn’t wrong. Whenever you feel tired or in pain, stop and have a break. But if you follow our other tips, chances are you will be able to keep going for longer before this happens.