How to Avoid Getting Injured This Winter

Think the only thing slowing you down this winter is finding the motivation to exercise in frigid temps? Another factor to keep in mind is dodging winter sports injuries. Nothing will derail your training faster than getting hurt! 

Over 220,000 people were treated at doctor’s offices and hospitals for injuries related to winter sports in 2017, according to the latest data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Nearly 70,000 of those injuries were from skiing, 54,000 from snowboarding and 52,000 from ice skating. To help keep you on the up and up when the temperatures drop and conditions worsen, we talked to Joseph Bosco III, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at NYU Langone Health who specializes in sports injuries, for his advice on what you should do to circumvent winter injuries and health problems. Here are our takeaways: 

Do a proper warm-up. With lower temperatures, Dr. Bosco advises getting muscle circulation going before you start your outdoor run or bike ride. Spend five  minutes doing a dynamic warm-up routine with leg swings, jumping jacks, high knees, side shuffles, and lunges.

Prevent dehydration. “During cooler temperatures, there’s less humidity, so even though you don’t perspire as much, you do [lose] water, and have to remember to hydrate,” says Dr. Bosco. That said, remember to drink water before, during, and after your winter workout.

Avoid frostbite. You always have to worry about frostbite when you’re going to be outdoors during frigid temps. It doesn’t need to be below zero in order for this to occur—wind speeds factor in as well. “Frostbite can occur on the ears, nose and fingers if they’re exposed on a long run,” says Dr. Bosco. Cover up with warm clothing to make sure everything’s protected, or, hit the treadmill when temperatures are this dangerous.

Increase visibility. With shorter and darker days, you might find yourself doing outdoor workouts in the dark. Make sure to wear reflective clothing and gear when you’re exercising outside at dawn, dusk, or in the dark.

Beware of falls. “Wrist fractures are pretty common amongst runners in the wintertime because they stumble and try to brace the fall,” says Dr. Bosco. “Many running shoes still have waffle soles and don’t work well on ice or slushy surfaces.” If you truly want to be a winter runner and live in a place where you know you’ll be logging miles in the slush, snow, and mud, invest in running shoes that offer good grip and will stay dry. They might be designed for mud runs, trail runs or obstacle course races.

“I also see a lot of pulled tendons from people skiing, snowboarding, and playing ice hockey,” says Dr. Bosco. He suggests getting a pulled tendon checked out sooner rather than later—because if it’s a true tear, the tendons can retract and make future repairs even more difficult.

Protect your noggin. Always wear a helmet when you’re skiing, snowboarding or sleigh riding. “When someone falls while doing these sports, they could get a bad head injury if they’re unprotected,” says Dr. Bosco. Be cognizant and wear a helmet when you’re doing high-impact or potentially dangerous winter activities.

Don’t overdo it. The person who has to watch out for winter sports injuries is likely that friend of yours who doesn’t exercise, hasn’t trained, and goes skiing for a long weekend. “When you’re not in decent shape and you haven’t strengthened your muscles, you’re going to get tired,” says Dr. Bosco. “If that’s the case, your muscles aren’t going to work as well; they won’t protect your joints, which is how you injure tendons and ligaments.” Maintaining a regular exercise routine and building up strength and agility is important for winter sports and will go a long way in preventing injuries.

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