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Orthopaedic surgeons offer safety tips for winter sports

Jan. 13, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- As we begin to welcome the snow this season, winter sports enthusiasts are gearing up to hit the slopes.

There are a variety of recreational winter sports to choose from around this time of year and it's a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and stay active during the long winter months. However, it's also a time when emergency rooms treat many common winter sports related injuries such as sprains, muscle strains, dislocations and fractures.

According to the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2011, more than 290,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctors' offices and emergency rooms for winter sports-related injuries.

More than 58,000 injuries were caused by sledding

Approximately 108,986 snowboarding injuries

124,324 snow skiing injuries

As part of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons' (AAOS) Prevent Injuries America! Campaign, orthopaedic surgeons want to decrease the risk for injuries and offer safety tips for individuals to add to their checklist before participating.

"As with all sports, there are numerous things to consider before getting in the game," said orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Anand Murthi, MD. "Winter sports are no different. Before hitting the slopes, know the basics -- stay alert to the unpredictable winter weather conditions and make certain to wear the appropriate gear as these two factors play a great role in the safety of these sports."

Consider the following Academy winter sports injury prevention tips:

Sledding Numerous sledding injuries are caused my collisions at the end of sledding paths and sledding in improper positions. Click here to read a detailed list of safety tips to help reduce these injuries.

Snowboarding and Skiing Many snowboarding and skiing injuries can be avoided by utilizing appropriate equipment, ensuring a safe environment and following all rules of these sports. Click here to read a full list of skiing and snowboarding safety tips.

Other general winter sports safety tips :

Never participate alone in a winter sport. If possible, skiers and snowboarders should ski with a partner and stay within sight of each other. Also, make sure someone who is not participating is aware of your plans and probable whereabouts before heading outdoors.

Check the weather for snow and ice conditions prior to heading outdoors. Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature to ensure safety. Make adjustments for icy conditions, deep snow powder, wet snow, and adverse weather conditions.

Dress for the occasion. Wear several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection. Also wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding and check that all equipment, such as ski and snowboard bindings, is in good working order.

Warm up thoroughly before playing. Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are vulnerable to injury. It's important to warm up by taking it easy on the first few runs.

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after outdoor activities. It's important to stay hydrated, especially to avoid altitude sickness when participating in sports at a high elevation. Don't drink alcohol as it can increase your chances of hypothermia.

Keep in shape and condition muscles before partaking in winter activities. If over the age of 50, it may be wise to have a medical check-up prior to participating in a winter sport.

Know and abide by all rules of the sport in which you are participating. Take a lesson (or several) from a qualified instructor, especially in sports like skiing and snowboarding.

Avoid participating in sports when you are in pain or exhausted. If tired, call it a day.

Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if you, or anyone with you, is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite. Early frostbite symptoms include: numbness and tingling in you digits, lack of feeling and poor motion.

Consider carrying a cell phone in case of an emergency.

A Nation in Motion More than one in four Americans have bone or joint health problems, making them the greatest cause of lost work days in the U.S. When orthopaedic surgeons restore mobility and reduce pain, they help people get back to work and to independent, productive lives. Orthopaedic surgeons provide the best value in American medicine in both human and economic terms and access to high-quality orthopaedic care keeps this "Nation in Motion." To learn more, to read hundreds of patient stories or to submit your own story, visit anationinmotion.org.

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