When summer begins to wind down, many folks ditch the pool floaties and look forward to their winter sport of choice – skiing, snowboarding, sledding, skating, or even just getting into a good old-fashioned snowball fight. As with most outdoor activities, injuries may be lurking around the next bend, waiting to steal your holiday joy. In the case of winter sports, injuries can come in the form of upper and lower extremity fractures, so-called “skier’s thumb,” concussions, ligament tears, or even frostbite. These can all happen to even the most seasoned of winter sports veterans, but there are a number of steps you can take to ensure your holidays aren’t entirely spent singing Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” in a full-body cast recovering from shoulder replacement surgery or elbow repair surgery!

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Go With a Friend

Knowing the potential dangers of winter sports, it is always wise to go with a friend, particularly one that is at or above your skill-level so that they can advise you on which parts may be beyond your abilities. If you do happen to injure yourself, it’s also good to have someone there to get help and to know what upper and lower extremity injuries can occur.

Know What to Wear

Many of the almost 150,000 annual injuries in the US connected with snow skiing and snowboarding can be prevented or minimized with a simple wardrobe adjustment. Wearing a protective helmet can prevent against concussions and other serious head injuries. Be sure to select outfits and fabrics that are both warm and non-restrictive because if your clothing does not properly protect against the cold and external exposure, it may leave you susceptible to conditions such as frostbite or wind- and sunburn, and if your gear restricts your range of motion, it can lead to tight muscles and stiff joints which may make you more prone to injury. Lastly, it is always best practice to check that the bindings on your equipment are securely fastened before starting any ski run.

 

Be Conscious of Your Surroundings

If you happen to be at a ski resort that you’ve never been to before, or going down a new run, do your homework beforehand to get a sense for what to expect: from the speed, grade, and elevation of the slope to whether or not there are moguls, ramps, or other additional elements on the course, to the number of expected people. Another factor that many winter sport participants fail to take into account is the weather. For example, if it has not snowed in a while, or if it’s later in the day, the pistes (i.e. snow runs) are more apt to be icy, which decreases traction and may lead to trauma injuries which could later result in surgeries  such as shoulder dislocation surgery, fractures, spinal injuries, and ligament tears.

 

Know Your Limits

This one may be the trickiest of all – many times our ego can get the best of us and cause us to take risks that land us on our rear ends in the snow – or worse, in the hospital. Knowing your limits can mean everything from your experience and ability (how much training have you had?), to your physical shape (is your body is good enough condition?), to your mental focus (do you have the necessary energy to stay concentrated?). One useful tip is to familiarize yourself with the standard ski slope rating symbols (e.g. green circle, blue square, black diamond), and understand which are within your abilities and which may be a stretch.

If you’re experiencing shoulder discomfort, see any of the best orthopedic specialists in Seattle!