There are many winter outdoor activities to be done for those of us who live in North Idaho. As with most activities, there is also a potential for injury. Adhering to some simple guidelines can decrease your chance for injury, allowing you to have an enjoyable — and safe winter season! 

Research shows that there are 1 million reported falls during the winter season, these falls can occur in your driveway, on the ski hill, and walking from outside to a slick surface. Falls on the ski hill will most likely involve your knee. Knee injuries make up thirty percent of all skiing/snowboarding injuries. 

The best way to prevent injuries on the mountain is to be aware of your surroundings, prepare for the ski hill with pre-season training, make sure people know where you are, and be aware of what symptoms to look for. 

  • Pre-season fitness training: Snowboarding and Skiing may be easy for you to pick back up year after year, but your muscles may not be prepared for the force being put on them during activity. Muscle and ligament injuries are more likely to occur when muscles are tired. It is very important to start strengthening your muscles before it is time to get on the hill to prevent injury.
  • Warm up prior to activity: Whether you are a cross country skier, downhill skier, snowboarder, or ice skater, it is important to warm up your muscles before starting your activity. Cold muscles aren’t able to stretch as far or adapt as quickly as warm muscles. A five minute jog in place, jumping jacks, squats, air punching with a jog are all great ways to get your muscles warmed up. A run down the bunny hill or easiest blue run are also good ways to get ready to start heading higher up the mountain. 

Many injuries in the wintertime occur doing regular activities and not just up on the mountain. Ice and snow can make getting in and out of the car, and walking through the parking lot more risky than they normally would be. It is important to continually practice your balance, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

  • Having good balance is helpful for everyday life but is especially important during the winter season. Some ways to do this at home before the snow comes is to stand next to a counter or something sturdy and practice picking up one foot and holding it, practicing going up and down the stairs. 
  • It is very important in the winter to be aware of your surroundings. Some ways that can be done; limit your use of distractions when going from one place to another i.e. house to car, or parking lot to store. Use rails when available, and choose the least icy path, even if it takes you longer. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If that means asking a neighbor for help shoveling your driveway, or asking the grocery store for help to your car, it is worth it if you can avoid a fall. 

 

This article was intended to provide general information only and is not a substitute for your own good judgment or consultation with a physical therapist. 

Molly Radonich, LAT, ATC