We’re in the height of winter. Some of us are winter sports enthusiasts, others not so much. Did you know that hundreds of thousands of Americans will seek medical treatment because of injuries while skiing, skating, snowboarding, sledding and tobogganing this winter, according to research conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission? Whether you are a winter sport pro or novice, getting in shape and taking a few simple precautions can help make sure you take advantage of our winter wonderland without ending up on crutches or with other serious injuries.
Don’t shorten your time outdoors because you can’t stay warm or feel a cold coming on. Wear several layers of clothing to trap body heat, including a long-sleeve shirt, sweatshirt and outer coat. Invest in waterproof boots, a hat and gloves. Good goggles and a helmet can literally be lifesavers when participating in speed sports. Dress for the top of the mountain – it’s always colder than the bottom.
Even though it’s cold out, you still sweat and need to stay hydrated. Winter is also a time when wind and sun can dry out your skin. Drink plenty of water before, during and after strenuous activities, particularly when exercising at higher altitudes. Apply long-lasting waterproof sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside and apply lip balm to keep your lips from drying, cracking and bleeding.
Protect Your Ankles
If you’ll be wearing skates or ski or snowboarding boots, choose ones that fit snugly but don’t cut off circulation. Wear socks that keep you warm and keep you stable in your boots.
Avoid long static stretching or holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds before you begin exercise. This not only temporarily desensitizes your muscles and decreases your power and vertical leap, but it can also mask muscle pain that might be a warning sign to take it easy. Start with a quick stretch followed by exercises to raise your heart rate, such as jumping jacks, arm swings and running in place.
Most winter sports require good balance, which relies on strong core muscles. Include at least 10 minutes of core exercises two to three times per week, choosing movements that mirror the activities you’ll be doing outside. Make sure to move your core forward and back, as well as side-to-side.
Improve Reactive Power
Prepare for winter activities by doing workouts that help you perform the powerful side-to-side and up-and-down movements necessary for snowboarding, skiing, and skating. These movements require you to use two muscle groups to create reactive power, such as jumping off a mogul or making quick turns. Use resistance bands, dumbbells, and calisthenics to build your leg and core muscles. Lunges, jump squats, burpees and jumping as high as you can are good choices. Target your hamstrings and calves, which can cramp if you overdo it on the slopes, pond, or hill.
Learn How to Fall
Many people break bones by not falling correctly. This often occurs when they stick their arms straight out and use their hands to try and break a fall. Landing on your shoulder can cause serious and long-term ligament and/or tendon damage. Learning how to avoid falls and how to fall correctly can help protect your arms and legs.
Skip the Last Run and Listen to Your Body
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons advises that many winter sports injuries occur later in the day, suggesting that people might be getting injured because they are pushing their limits to make that final ski or snowboard run. If you feel fatigued and are debating whether or not to take that one last run, it’s probably a good time to call it a day. Always listen to your body. If you’re tired, stop. Any time you have chest pain, lightheadedness, shortness of breath and dizziness, stop immediately and seek medical attention.
Know Where to Go if You do Get Injured
Sports injuries can come on suddenly or occur gradually. Even a minor injury can keep you from participating in activities you love or performing your best. Trinity Health Michigan delivers specialized care to help you get back in the game safely and without pain.
Find an Orthopedic Expert Near You.