Leisure Skiing and Snowboarding aren't often thought of as being overly dangerous, but they can be if the proper precautions aren't taken. Slips and falls can lead to head and spine injuries, lack of conditioning can put pressure on the knees and hypothermia and/or frostbite are just one layer of clothing away. Fortunately, Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Andrew Bulczynski has you covered. In a recent article on Lifezette.com, Dr. Bulczynski was asked how winter athletes (or those caring for them) can prevent some of these unfortunate winter injuries.
To prevent head injuries, wear a helmet:
Helmets cannot eliminate the risk of a concussion, but Bulczynski said they should still be required gear for all skiers and snowboarders. Helmets just might save both your head and your money: "Some insurance companies may invalidate an insurance claim if a skier or snowboarder was injured and not wearing a helmet," Bulczynski told LifeZette.
The concussion symptoms to watch for include "blurred vision, dizziness, confusion, vomiting, and also swelling at the site of where the head was injured," he noted. "If any of those symptoms present, it would be prudent to be evaluated by a medical professional."
To prevent spine and back injuries:
"The higher the speed, the higher the risk," he said of skiing and snowboarding. Experienced skiers and boarders can take the slopes at higher speeds, but beginners should keep the pace slower for the first few years.
Also, "body armor has been shown to reduce the risk of [back] injuries," Bulczynski said. If you're going to get serious about the sport and you're willing to shell out a couple hundred bucks, buy body armor. For high-contact sports like hockey, body armor might be easier to get your child to wear — and might save his spine, too.
Lessons are always advisable for any winter sport that involves higher speeds.
And when it comes to knee injuries, conditioning and form are key:
Kneepads are a must for snowboarders and hockey players, as a lot of falls in these sports happen on the knees. But ice skating and skiing are more likely to cause a twist of the knee. For these types of stress, pre-season conditioning cannot be neglected, Bulczynski says. If your muscles are unused to strain, they're more likely to pop under stress. People who are "well-conditioned … are more likely to continue to perform without being fatigued. Being fatigued can increase the risk of injury," he noted.
Also, make sure your clothing is "flexible," so it doesn't impede movement and initiate an injury if you fall. Many companies now sell active wear geared toward individual sports that offer freedom of motion, moisture wicking, and warmth. This is a great investment for kids, if you're logging lots of time on the ski slopes or ice rink.
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