The winter season can be the best time for some outdoor fun! Many families enjoy the weather together by skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowmobiling, and sledding. But, the joy of speeding down the hill or across the ice makes it easy to forget that these winter activities can also lead to injuries.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2014 there were more than 52,000 sledding, snow tubing, and toboggan-related injuries treated at emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics.
Adults are not immune to injuries either. Falls have become the leading cause of traumatic brain injury, and anyone can fall on a slippery surface no matter your age! Our trauma experts would like everyone to play it safe and follow these recommendations.
Prepare for the weather- Dress for the outdoors, wearing layers to keep warm. Have good traction on your shoes or boots, or invest in snow and ice walkers such as Yaktrax. The Falls Free Prevention Coalition also says those who use one should consider an ice gripper for their cane. You can even carry small bags of kitty litter to spread out on the pathways for traction.
Walk like a penguin- Take slow, small steps with your body weight over your feet to prevent slipping on ice. Select clear pathways when possible and keep your hands free for balance. It’s also good to give yourself extra time to get to your destination when roads and walkways are icy.
Hands off- Using a snowblower to clear the snow? NEVER place your hand or foot in it to clear the blades. If it becomes jammed, it can recoil, even when off, and inflict serious injury. Always use a tool to clear snow, ice, and debris blockages. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states there are approximately 590 finger amputations yearly as a result of snow thrower accidents and 5,740 hospital emergency room visits related to snow thrower accidents.
Wear a helmet – Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of serious injuries among skiers and snowboarders and is also the most common cause of death according to the Child Injury Prevention Alliance. If you or your children are participating in other winter activities that involve speed, such as ice skating or sledding, wear a multi-sport or ski helmet. If you don’t have either, then a bike helmet is better than no helmet at all! Thirty percent of children hospitalized after a sledding injury had significant head injuries, with 10% experiencing permanent disability. You should also protect your body, using knee and elbow pads when ice skating, googles when skiing, snowboarding, or snowmobiling, and wrist guards when snowboarding. Falls at high speeds can lead to broken bones and branches in the way can lead to eye injuries ending your winter season of fun.
Find a safe spot- Don’t skate on thin ice or ice that has thawed and refrozen. Avoid sledding in areas with trees, fences, ponds, and light poles. Don’t sled near or in the street and avoid snowplows and snow blowers. And remember, it’s safest to ride with one person per sled, sitting up with their feet forward. NEVER sled head first as this increases the risk of head, spine, and abdominal injuries. It is best to sled during the day and to pick a sled that has brakes and can be steered. Inner tubes, saucers, and snow disks are not recommended because of their fast speed and lack of steering capability. If you are headed for danger and your sled won’t stop, ROLL OFF IT. Don’t worry about the sled, it can be retrieved it at the bottom of the hill. Don’t wear scarfs as they can get caught in the sled and cause strangulation or a neck injury! Never ride a sled that is being pulled by a motorized vehicle!
Buddy up- Never participate in winter activities alone, go with friends and look out for one another. Adults should supervise and be available if someone gets hurt. A study by the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons reported that 71% of all sledding injuries occurred without adult supervision, the incident rate drops when adults are present.
Preventing winter injuries is possible. As you get ready for the winter season, we hope you’ll consider these tips and that your winter will be a safe and happy one!