Common Winter Injuries: Risks, prevention and treatments

Winter brings snow, ice and a myriad of cold injuries to be cognizant of.

ByRothman Orthopaedic Institute WPVI logo
Monday, January 24, 2022

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The colder months of winter bring us fun, snow, and endless seasonal activities. But with all the unpredictable weather and the bitter cold, come unexpected winter injuries.

Wintertime risks can typically be avoided but the first step is to educate yourself as the temperature drops. The experts at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute have put together the tips below to ensure you stay safe and healthy this winter.

While winter means fun, games, and the hope of canceled school days, it also means serious complications and risks for people of all walks of life. The cold, snow and ice of the season bring a myriad of common winter injuries to be cognizant of.

But being informed and prepared is half the battle. For those who want to learn more about common winter injuries, winter injury prevention tips, and effective treatments for these injuries, read on to learn how to prevent the prevalent risks and common injuries of the winter season.

Common Winter Injuries: Risks, Prevention, and Treatments

We've divided our overview of common winter injuries into three more specific categories: winter sports injuries, risks and injuries related to exposure, and common risks and injuries for seniors. Each section contains helpful information, tips, and winter injuries statistics.

Winter Sports Injuries

The most obvious and intuitive source of winter injuries is winter sports. From ice hockey to downhill skiing, the intensity of popular winter sports is enough alone to present a very real risk of injury. This combined with the presence of ice in many of these sports, and you can easily understand the prevalence of winter sports injuries.

In 2014 alone, over 290,000 patients were treated for winter sports injuries. Among these, some of the most frequent injuries were from the following sports:

  • Skiing (responsible for 114,000 injuries)
  • Snowboarding (responsible for 79,000 injuries)
  • Sledding, tobogganing, and snow tubing (responsible for 52,000 injuries)
  • Ice skating (responsible for 47,000 injuries)

The majority of these injuries are fractures, breaks, sprains, strains, and dislocations. Often, they result from people not using proper technique, form, or equipment--or from overexerting themselves beyond their capabilities.

It's important to take breaks while participating in winter sports, especially for beginners. The air is cold and the temps are low, but you're bundled in layers so you often don't notice if you're sweating and becoming dehydrated. Try to listen to your body in order to understand when you're in need of rest.

There are numerous ways to help prevent winter sports injuries, including:

  • Stay in active, healthy shape during the off-season.
  • Condition muscles before taking part in winter sports.
  • Wear all recommended safety and protective gear such as helmets, goggles, padding, etc.
  • Check all sports equipment before engaging in activity.
  • Warm up before activity; the cold can make muscles, tendons, and ligaments more prone to injury.

Winter Injuries and Seniors

Slick, ice-covered sidewalks, driveways, and stairs make people of all ages more vulnerable to slips and fall injuries during wintertime, but the more fragile makeup of seniors' skeletal and muscular systems make these common winter injuries much more serious for seniors.

Below are four of the most common winter injuries for seniors:

  • Bone injuries from slipping on snow and ice; these injuries may include broken wrists, arms, or hips. They can also include head trauma.
  • Back and spinal injuries from snow removal.
  • Driving accidents; icy conditions make car accidents more common for all age groups during the winter months, and seniors are particularly affected by reduced visibility when driving in winter storms.

To reduce the risk of these injuries, you can:

  • Wear shoes with solid grip and traction and make sure walkways are cleared of ice before going outside.
  • Consider hiring someone to shovel your driveway.
  • Dress in layers and properly program your thermostat.
  • Replace your car tires with snow tires, check weather conditions before driving, and always keep first aid supplies and warm clothes/blankets in your vehicle.

And as a general rule of thumb, if you don't have to make a trip outside during inclement weather that can cause these injuries, stay inside.

Winter should be a wonderful time of year, but these common winter injuries can compromise your season and, more importantly, your health. The one thing certain to ruin your season is an injury, so take your time this winter and holiday season and exhibit extra caution. If you or a loved one has experienced an injury and would like to seek out treatment, visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.