Winter is here and before you know it, more snow will be falling. Many of us are already dusting off our snowshoes, skis, skates, sleds, and helmets to get ready for the winter fun. Ensuring that your gear is in proper working condition is important, but it is equally important to know how to keep yourself safe and injury-free.

Many common winter sports related injuries could have been prevented. If you follow these tips, you will be on your way to a happy, healthy winter sports season. Some of these tips may even save your life.

Don’t Go Alone 

When playing winter sports, the most dangerous thing you can do is play them alone. Stay close enough to one another so you can react quickly if there’s an accident. When going into the wilderness, you should go in a group of no less than three. In case of an injury, one person can stay with the injured party while the other person goes to get help.

Do Warmup Exercises and Drink Water 

Your muscles and heart need to be in good shape before any type of physical activity, especially an intense wintertime activity. Muscles get tighter when the temperature drops, and your blood vessels contract. As a result, you’re more likely to get exhausted or develop a muscle cramp, and that raises the risk of a more serious injury.

Your warm-up routine should include:

  • Stretching your arms, legs and back
  • Arm circles
  • Twisting your upper body
  • Squats
  • Jumping rope or running in place
  • Stay hydrated

Use Protective Equipment

Most common winter sports injuries can be minimized – or prevented altogether – by wearing reliable protective equipment. The most essential piece is a helmet. Numerous studies have proven their effectiveness in preventing head injuries, which are more likely to be fatal than other types of injuries. If you have an old helmet, check it for signs of wear and tear – even one collision can do significant damage. If a blow to the head occurs, the helmet should be replaced. Don’t forget to buy padding for other body parts, such as arms and legs.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

The best ensemble for outdoor activity includes:

  • A shirt and long underwear (no cotton)
  • A long-sleeved shirt or fleece vest
  • A fleece jacket or insulated jacket liner
  • A waterproof outer shell
  • Insulated gloves
  • Wool or synthetic socks
  • Insulated shoes or boots

Be Familiar With Your Surroundings

Even if you’re in a familiar environment, new obstacles could take you by surprise. With changing seasons and weather patterns, the landscape is always changing. Many winter sports injuries occur because someone didn’t anticipate a big tree or rock on the ski slope, or didn’t notice a thin patch of ice during a hockey game. Knowing what’s around you helps you figure out where to go – and which areas to avoid.

  • Avoid crowded areas so you don’t run into someone
  • Don’t wear headphones
  • Stay away from rocks and trees
  • Keep scanning the area – you never know when something will appear unexpectedly

Know Your Limits

It can be hard for some people to stop the fun, but this might be one of the most important winter sports safety tips you can follow. Even after following every skiing, skating or snowboarding injury prevention guideline, you could end up feeling exhausted or experiencing pain. In either case, it’s time to stop. You might want to challenge yourself, but it’s not worth putting your health or safety at risk.

The University of Vermont Medical Center Trauma Center can be reached at 802-847-3790. We offer excellence in trauma surgery, burn-related surgery and surgical critical care. As Vermont’s only Level I Trauma Center-and the first in the U.S. to be verified for both children and adults, you can be assured that you and your family have access to the most advanced trauma surgery and surgical critical care available in the event of a serious injury or accident.

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