NYACK, N.Y. -- Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced winter sports enthusiast, injuries can pile up during the colder months. However, with proper preparation and the correct equipment, seasonal athletes can spend more time on the mountain and less nursing injuries with a few easy precautions.
The best way to protect against winter sports injuries is to be in good athletic condition, explained Dr. Barry Kraushaar, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at Nyack Hospital. He urges winter sports enthusiasts to keep in shape all year, so they’re ready when winter arrives. “Cross training and endurance training are very important,” said Kraushaar. “Running, cycling and using the elliptical keep your legs in shape. Classes that promote core strengthening, like Pilates, are also good for winter sports.”
Winter sports also often require certain abilities, which is why scheduling a class before planning a trip is important. “Taking classes will give you lifelong skills that will stay with you," said Kraushaar. “For example, if you go with a friend to a slope that you’re not prepared for, you’re putting yourself at risk of injury.”
Mountain injuries commonly target the knees and ankles, including ACL tears and fractures. To help avoid these injuries, it's important to properly check bindings and wear correctly sized footwear.
In addition to injuries, winter sports also bring a risk of hypothermia, frostbite and dehydration. “People don’t realize it only takes minutes to get frostbite on the nose or fingertips in very cold, windy weather,” said Kraushaar. “That’s why it’s so important to wear layers and choose wind-resistant clothing.”
To prevent hypothermia when preparing to hit the slopes, first choose an inner layer that wicks sweat away from the skin. A good fleece or wool middle layer traps heat and a slick outer shell will repel wind, snow and rain. Finish off with a warm face mask or scarf, gloves and socks.
And no matter how cold it is, it's also important to stay hydrated. “You lose moisture when you exert yourself, even when it’s cold,” said Kraushaar. “But unlike hot weather, you may not realize you’re sweating in the cold.” He recommends drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine or alcohol when heading outdoors.
Most important, no matter your skill level, it's important to pay attention to the conditions outside. “All of these sports involve controlling your motion on snow or frozen surfaces," said Kraushaar. "If it’s icy outside, it’s hard to control your movements. The worse the conditions, the more you are tempting fate. By avoiding the ice, you may be avoiding injury.”
For more ways to stay safe this winter, visit Nyack Hospital's website.