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Be Careful Out There: How to Avoid Winter Sports Injuries This Season

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Vadim Zakharishchev

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Vadim Zakharishchev

When the first snowflake touches down in Philadelphia, locals clamor to the nearest mountain lodges, ice rinks and neighborhood hills to take part in favorite winter pastimes: skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and sledding. And while certainly fun, winter sports can be injurious. Just ask Penn Musculoskeletal Center orthopaedic surgeon James Carey, MD: “In the Sports Medicine office at this time of year, we frequently see injuries from skiing and snowboarding. [But] it may surprise readers that we also see a substantial number of injuries from ice skating and sledding.” Our favorite winter activities, it turns out, can also cause serious injuries if we’re not careful. 

According to Dr. Carey, it’s the twisting movements that make these sports particularly dangerous, thus contributing to knee and ankle injuries. He also warns that “contact and collisions with other skiers and obstacles can result in injury.” Dr. Carey says he commonly sees ACL ruptures, as well as several kneecap dislocations each year. (It turns out, he had just treated a patient that sustained a kneecap dislocation while ice skating.)

It’s important to note, however, that winter sports aren’t necessarily more dangerous than other seasonal activities. In fact, Dr. Carey says, “I do not really consider these sports more injurious than other seasonal sports. Our Sports Medicine clinic is busy year round with basketball, football, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, baseball, softball, cycling, running and volleyball injuries.”

Dr. Carey points out that there are preventative measures one can take when participating in winter sports. He explains, “A recent study1 has demonstrated that injuries were more likely in skiers and snowboarders that never had professional instruction or that used rented equipment.” Like any other sport, it’s essential to receive proper training. People can also decrease the chance of injury by wearing helmets and avoiding drugs or alcohol when participating in the aforementioned sports.

For folks who think they’ve sustained an injury or may encounter one in the future, Dr. Carey had this to say: “If a patient experiences a pop at the time of injury or immediate swelling in the knee, then they should likely consult with a Sports Medicine surgeon. Further, any loss of motion or any pain that fails to improve after three days of rest and ice application should be evaluated.”

The takeaway: just because you take part in your favorite winter activities recreationally, doesn’t mean you should treat them any differently than typical sports. Staying safe (and having fun!) should always be the priority.

For more information about treating sport injuries, consult the physicians at the Penn Musculoskeletal Center.

1Patrick et al.  Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine.  2015