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Top Two Causes of Winter Injuries (And How To Avoid Them)

 

Elite Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy brings something better to physical therapy in Kansas City, and we want to not only help individual's heal from pain and injury, but also prevent it. 

The winter season can be beautiful, but it can also be brutal and increase risk of injury. 

The top two causes of injury we see during the winter months include slipping and falling on the ice, and various injuries from shoveling snow. 

All of us at Elite Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy want to help you understand how you can stay safe this winter... 

 

SLIPPING & FALLING 

When it is icy, an often-true statement is, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Too often people try to hurry across wintery grounds, forgetting just how tricky it can be to walk on ice. When it is cold, and especially following precipitation, be very careful when walking outside. 

First and foremost, proactively treat your sidewalk, porch, deck, and driveway with deicer/salt. If it is slippery, move slowly taking short steps with bent knees and an active core (another reason why core strength is so important! Read more here).

If you are near a vehicle or handrail, use them to help you balance.

Additionally, be sure to wear shoes with a nice grip on the bottom. 

Here’s a quick list to wrap it up: 

  • Walk slow and steady 
  • Strengthen your core
  • Engage your core while walking on slick surfaces
  • Wear sturdy shoes 
  • Utilize objects such as a railing or car to help maintain balance 

One additional characteristic of wintery weather to be mindful of, is curbs and steps in the snow. When snow piles up it is easy to not directly see a step or curb. When snow is soft, we tend to sink right through it. If you are not expecting the step, or end up not fully stepping onto it or off of it, you increase your chances of rolling an ankle or experiencing a fall. 

If you or a loved one experiences a fall it is extremely important to receive proper care to ensure optimal recovery, especially for individuals over the age of 65. Bone breaks (especially to the hips), head injuries, or any other serious injury can strongly impact an individuals quality of life, and overall health. As so, any sort of injury following a fall should not be taken lightly. 

First steps for assessment and treatment from highest severity, to least may include... 

  • Calling 911 OR Visiting the emergency room* 
  • Going to urgent care 
  • Contacting your primary care 
  • Calling your Physical Therapist 
  • Rest, Ice, and Compression 

 

*Emergencies to be mindful of: Losing consciousness, confusion/disorientation, vomiting, severe headaches, increased sleepiness, or seizures. 

 

 

BACK & NECK INJURIES FROM SHOVELING

During the winter months there are two things that are not as common year-round for individuals: 

  • Resting/sleeping more 
  • Shoveling snow 
  • Spending more time on the couch 

 

The nature of shoveling the driveway or sidewalk can increase one’s risk for neck or back injury because of... 

  • Improper posture and positioning while shoveling 
  • Shoveling for a long period of time 
  • Using a shovel that is the wrong size for the individual 

 

So what is the solution to keep safe? 

WARM UP – You do not have to perform any specific warm up routine prior to shoveling, simply starting slow when shoveling will naturally warm up your body for quicker shoveling. 

PROPER FORM FOR SHOVELING - Keep your shovel at a slight angle. Avoid hunching over, locking your knees, bending over through the low back to push the shovel forward. Instead, brace your core, keep a slight bend in the knees, step into the work of pushing the shovel forward. And remember to breathe! 

When you pick up the snow to add to a pile, bend over at the waist, brace your core, and use your legs to lift the snow-filled shovel. Additionally, avoid tossing the snow. 

KEEP IT SHORT – Shovel for short distances. This may mean shoveling from side to side on your driveway and sidewalk, rather than from the house to the street. 

TAKE BREAKS – Depending on how active you already are, gauge the amount of time you spend shoveling before taking a break. Suggestion: Complete your shoveling in sections. For example, shovel your sidewalk, then take a 10-15 minute break (or longer). Then proceed to your driveway. If you have a larger driveway consider breaking it into segments for shoveling purposes. 

FIND A SHOVEL THAT FITS YOUR HEIGHT – If you are an adult, avoid using a kid-sized shovel. That will make you more prone to hunch over. Additionally, if you are of a shorter stature, be sure to now use a shovel that is larger. This will make it hard to grip properly increasing a chance of slipping. 

 

 

If you are experiencing any pain or injury this winter, Elite Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy want to help. We offer precise, personalized Physical Therapy in individual treatment rooms to help you get back to moving without pain or limitation. That way you can enjoy things like taking walks, picking up children, and going up and down stairs once again. 

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