Is hockey the most dangerous sport? What about skiing or snowboarding? There’s something about a winter sports injury, where speed is often coupled with cold weather, that can make athletes (and their parents) particularly nervous.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 220,000 patients were treated for injuries from winter sports during the year 2017. This data includes visits to doctor’s offices, hospitals, and emergency departments. So winter injuries can be common--but there are steps you can take to avoid them, especially if you’re an active winter athlete.
Winter sports safety tips cover everything from proper gear to prevention and treatment. Avoiding those winter injuries can help keep you out in the cold (where you like it) longer!
Which Winter Sports Cause the Most Injuries?
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the leading sports contributing to winter injuries include the following:
- Snow skiing
- Ice Skating
- Sledding and snow tubing
According to this particular survey, skiing and snowboarding combined account for over 50% of all sports injuries over the past ten years. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, largely because the popularity of certain sports and activities tends to increase and decrease over time.
For example, hockey injuries have increased over 200% in that same time period. In 2019, hockey became the number two winter sport associated with injuries, just barely moving ahead of ice skating. The sport that has the most injuries is skiing. But what’s clear is that skiing, ice skating, and hockey are all higher-risk activities when it comes to winter sports injuries. Now, is skiing or snowboarding more dangerous than ice skating? That’s hard to say.
This doesn’t mean you need to avoid these winter activities. It simply means that practicing good winter sports injury prevention can help manage your risk and prioritize your enjoyment.
Which Injuries Are Caused by Which Sport?
The single most common winter sports injuries are head injuries. This could include everything from a mild concussion to a serious Traumatic Brain Injury, though the former is much more common (and still a serious injury).
There are a wide variety of injuries that are associated with each winter sport--and none of these injuries are mutually exclusive. However, there are some injuries that are more commonly associated with one sport than another. Those include the following:
- Skiing: The most common injuries associated with skiing include ACL ruptures or strains, MCL ruptures or strains, wrist fractures, finger fractures (especially the thumb), and injuries to the shoulder (including sprains, strains, and breaks).
- Hockey: Hockey can also cause ACL and MCL damage. But other common injuries include collarbone breaks, dislocated shoulders, and various muscle strains.
- Ice skating: Because ankles are so critical to ice skating movements, ankle sprains and strains are common injuries associated with this sport. So too are dislocated shoulders, ACL tears, and meniscal tears.
Other winter sports, such as snowboarding or sledding, can cause other specific injuries. All winter sports are capable of causing concussions.
How Are Winter Sports Injuries Treated?
The most common non-TBI injuries that occur from winter sports include:
Each injury will require its own, unique treatment. It’s essential that you seek out medical treatment as soon as possible after your injury occurs. For most of these injuries, treatment will begin with a diagnostic, such as an X-Ray or MRI, to assess the extent of the damage.
Once the injury has been assessed, your physician may recommend immobilizing the area (for example, a broken arm or severely sprained ankle may be placed in a splint or cast). Many injuries can be treated non-surgically. In some cases, however, severe sports injuries, such as sprains, breaks, or tendon ruptures, may require surgery to correct.
After many winter sports injuries, your physician will likely recommend physical therapy as part of your treatment plan. Check out this roadmap to surgery to get an idea of what your treatment plan may look like!
What if Your Treatment Requires Surgery?
Because of the cold temperatures involved, many sports injuries can quickly become surprisingly severe. As a result, you may require surgery to correct the damage to tendons, tissues, or bone. However, it’s important to keep in mind that many corrective surgical procedures for winter sports injuries can be conducted on an outpatient basis.
This means you’ll be able to go home on the same day as your surgery. Many of these outpatient procedures can be performed in an ambulatory surgery center, which means you could skip the hospital altogether.
Ambulatory surgery centers provide some significant benefits, including a more clinic-like atmosphere, lower costs, and a smaller patient-to-physician ratio.
How to Practice Winter Sports Injury Prevention
During the winter, your muscles, ligaments, and tendons are more prone to injury because they tighten up in response to the cold. While this may be the main cause of some injuries, it is also important to make sure that you are in overall good physical condition before participating in athletic activities.
Many sports injuries during the winter could be easily prevented through proper preparation and exercising some common sense before heading out. It is also important to make sure that you use the right protective gear for your sport and that your equipment is in good condition.
You can practice winter sports injury prevention by:
- Warming up before participating in a winter sport
- Practicing outdoor winter sports safety
- Not participating in your sport alone
- Wearing several layers of loose and lightweight clothing that allow sweat to evaporate and a wind-resistant top layer
- Not participating in sports if you are ill, tired, or in pain
- Keeping informed of storm warnings or extreme cold spells
- Knowing the rules of the sports you play
- Wearing safety equipment, such as goggles, gloves, pads, or headgear
- Remaining hydrated by drinking water or sports drinks before, while, and after you participate in sport
Accidents Still Could Happen
Sometimes despite your best efforts to avoid injury, you may still get hurt. If you suffer an injury, seek shelter and medical assistance as soon as possible. For injuries that require surgery, the Iowa City Ambulatory Surgical Center is always ready to assist in your recovery.
Talk to your physician about whether you’re a good candidate to have your winter sports injury surgery performed at an ambulatory surgery center. For additional information on our orthopedic specialists and other sports injuries, CLICK HERE.