Preventing Injury During the Winter

Winter is here! This means the temperature is dropping and the snow will be falling. Unfortunately, this also means an increased risk of injury. Warming up before strenuous activity has always been a staple of exercise, but this becomes even more important during the winter and especially with outdoor activities.

Current research shows that dynamic stretching and warm ups are more effective prior to activity compared to static stretching. Imagine your muscle is a rubber band. Both have the ability to be stretched and return to its normal form. Now imagine putting a rubber band in the freezer overnight and stretching the rubber band right out of the freezer. SNAP! However, if you take the rubber band out of the freezer, rub it between your hands to warm it back up, the rubber band regains its natural stretch without issue.

This metaphor can be applied to muscles in the body. Cold muscles are more prone to injury, which can be prevented with proper preparations and warm-ups. If you try to perform static stretches to cold muscle, this may end up doing more harm than good. So, if you are a runner, skier/snowboarder, or just a winter adventurer, be sure to properly warm-up beforehand.

When performing outdoor activities, it is also important to have the proper equipment to ensure safety. For example, if you plan on taking a winter hike, you should have the proper equipment and clothing such as helmets, boots, warm layers, and other accessories that may be necessary.

Even if you are not a high activity individual, injury prevention during the winter months is still important. Slipping on ice is a major hazard. Ice can cause severe injuries including but not limited to head trauma, fractures, and ankle injuries. Slipping injuries can occur anywhere as ice can be hard to see.

Aside from slipping, shoveling can cause repetitive motion injuries from lifting and twisting. Common complaints after shoveling include low back pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain. Proper mechanics are important in preventing serious injury. Remember to always lift with your legs and glutes rather than your low back. Also, never try to lift more snow or weight than your body can normally handle. Following these two rules when shoveling will decrease the risk of injuring yourself. If proper precautionary measures are taken, you should be able to enjoy the season without much worry!