As January comes to an end, we have hopes and dreams that spring is right around the corner! However, we do live in Wisconsin, and winter weather typically continues through March or April.
The opportunities for fun activities like snowboarding and ice skating are plentiful during winter months, but snow and icy conditions can also cause problems for people. A simple slip or fall due to snow and ice can pose a significant threat to old and young alike. Snow blowing and snow shoveling can cause unwanted injuries. Frostbite can also be another concern when the mercury drops in Northeast Wisconsin.
Careful attention to injury prevention is essential when Old Man Winter takes control. It’s important to remember safety factors that will keep you healthy and safe. At Hand to Shoulder Center we treat many injuries each winter season, from shoulder injuries to fractured wrists and elbows to amputated fingers and hands. It is essential for each winter enthusiast to keep safety first when enjoying the beauty of the outdoors.
Common winter activities, injuries and safety tips:
- Slips and falls – Vulnerable thumbs, hands, wrists, and elbows are at a tremendous risk of injury during a slip or fall. Fractures of the wrist or elbow are common injuries from a fall. In an attempt to avoid upper extremity injuries, try not to break your fall with your hands and arms. Instead, try to roll into it naturally to lessen the force of impact. If possible, use your buttocks to land a fall.
- Snow blowing – Wet, heavy snow or accumulated snow may cause your snow blower to clog. Do not use your hands to unclog; amputations of fingers and hands may occur. If the chute or blades become clogged, do not attempt to unclog when the machine is running. Turn off the machine, disengage the clutch and wait 10 seconds after shutting it off to allow the impeller blades to stop rotating. Always use a stick or broom handle to clear impacted snow.
- Shoveling snow – Lifting the snow properly is essential for muscle and joint protection. Shoveling snow and especially lifting a snow-filled shovel repeatedly above the level of your shoulder may encourage inflammation and shoulder pain to develop. Shoulder impingement or a tear in the rotator cuff can also develop. Lifting with your legs and not bending at the waist along with pushing the snow instead of lifting are helpful suggestions. Short breaks are recommended to reduce fatigue in muscles that are being overused.
- Frostbite – Frostbite occurs when areas of exposed skin become so cold they freeze. Unfortunately you cannot feel frostbite as it is occurring. So keep a close eye on your fingers, toes, cheeks, ears and nose for numbness and a whitish look. Most importantly, know the weather before you venture out. For frigid blustery weather, wear layers of clothing with waterproof garments on the outside. Wear hats, scarves and extra layers of mittens if needed. If clothes become wet, change them as soon as possible, as heat escapes quickly through wet garments.
- Snow sports – Skiing, snowboarding and sledding are just a few of the many winter sports enjoyed in Wisconsin. Hand and wrist injuries from falls tend to plague these activities. A thumb injury, sometimes referred to as Skier’s thumb, happens when the ski pole does not release from the hand during a fall. Wrist fractures and hand injuries occur when the hands reach out to prevent the fall. In snowboarding, your hands and upper body are used for balance. When that balance is lost, your upper extremities are susceptible to injury. A dislocated shoulder is one of the many injuries that may occur when you fall and land on your shoulder. To minimize your risk of injury, don’t overexert yourself, wear appropriate gear and stay hydrated. When a fall happens, attempt to roll into it naturally to lessen the force of impact and minimize your risk of injury.
Snow is beautiful and fun but danger may also lurk within. Be careful and mindful when enjoying winter weather in our beautiful state of Wisconsin!