By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Many families will be spending the December holidays in snow or cold weather. Be sure to take some reasonable precautions to ensure that your time outdoors is safe, enjoyable, and allowing you to perform to your best effort.
Many outdoor winter sport injuries are the result of trauma. Common causes will include falls, collisions, lift accidents, or ski/snowboard on dangerous terrain. In my orthopedic practice I commonly hear from patients that fatigue played a major role in the accident, and this observation has been supported by scientific studies. In other instances poor judgment plays a role, for example overestimating one’s physical ability and utilizing runs that are too advanced for true skill level.
Here are some common factors, and steps that you can take to lower your sport injury risk:
- Dehydration. Many people falsely believe that you can only get dehydrated in warm weather. But dehydration in winter sports is common, and dehydration can lead to fatigue, which in turn increases risk of injury. The American College of Sports Medicine has a simple tip sheet on hydration which recommends 8-12 ounces of a sports drink up to 15 minutes before exercise, and 3-8 ounces of a sports drink about every 15 -20 minutes during exercise. This isn’t always practical outdoors, but do your best. Pay attention to hydration.
- Improperly adjusted or fitted equipment. Bindings can be too loose, too tight, or you are in the wrong equipment for your skill level. All of these can happen, but in my experience bindings that are too tight are a big risk for knee injury. Make sure a skilled professional has properly fitted and tuned your equipment.
- Poor conditions and lack of altitude acclimatization. I lump these together as they are all location specific risk factors. Snow conditions on the extremes are knee injury generators, specifically icy and slushy conditions. Beware of these. And for those individuals who are not aerobically fit you may be at risk for altitude sickness, particularly above 6000 feet. Ideally you’ll start with a few days of limited time on the slopes and work up as you acclimate.
- Participation while fatigued. This has been studied scientifically, and fatigue plays a significant role in possible serious injury. Pay attention to your body. If you’re feeling tired then get some rest, get some food, and hydrate. Get back out when your energy level recovers.
- Skiing/snowboarding above ability level. If you’re a novice skier do your really think you’re capable of the black diamond slopes? Resist peer pressure and stay within your skill level.
- Skiing/snowboarding off trail or in closed areas. Tragically, people die each year by going off trail. Warning signs are posted for a very good reason. Pay attention and be around to enjoy another day.
- Winter Sport Workouts (spryliving.com)