Friday, 06 December 2013 11:35

Avoiding Winter Sport Injuries

By James B. Marwica | Families Today
Winter is here! The mountains and ice rinks are open while we await what is sure to be a snowy winter. With some snow on the ground we can tune up the sleds and enjoy some winter time with the kids, or, like me, with adults who act like kids. Just as we transition into spring, summer or fall, the sports change and so do the muscles that are needed to perform the sport. As we mature, get older, the seasonal sport transition grows increasingly dangerous and injury may be around the bend. More than 440,000 people were treated at hospitals, doctor’s offices and emergency rooms for winter sports-related injuries in 2010, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. They break down these injuries to 144,000 injuries from snow skiing, 148,000 injuries from snowboarding, 63,000 injuries from ice hockey, 58,500 injuries from ice skating and 91,000 injuries from sledding and tobogganing. Typically winter sports injuries include sprains, strains, dislocations, cuts, bruises and fractures. Many of these injuries happen at the beginning or the end of the day, when people aren’t warmed up or when they overexert themselves to finish that one last run before the day’s end. A majority of these injuries can easily be prevented if participants prepare for their sport by keeping in good physical condition, warming up, staying alert and stopping when they are tired or in pain. A few tips to help prevent injury during winter activities provided by The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons are: •Never participate alone. •Stay in shape and condition muscles before participating in winter activities. •Warm up thoroughly before playing or participating. Cold muscles, tendons, and ligaments are vulnerable to injury. •Wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding. •Check that equipment is working properly prior to use. •Wear several layers of light, loose and water-and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection. Layering allows you to accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature. Wear proper footwear that provides warmth and dryness, as well as ample ankle support. •Take a lesson (or several) from a qualified instructor, especially in sports like skiing and snowboarding. Learning how to fall correctly and safely can reduce the risk of injury. •Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature to ensure safety. •Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if you, or anyone with you, is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite. Make sure everyone is aware of proper procedures for getting help, if injuries occur. •Drink plenty of water before, during and after activities. •Avoid participating in sports when you are in pain or exhausted. Conditioning for your winter sport activity is as vital for injury prevention as proper equipment is. Skiers, boarders, skaters, sledders and hockey players can all increase their safety and performance this winter by starting with a pre-conditioning program that includes four components: endurance, strength, flexibility and balance. Aerobic fitness is the key to preventing the end of the day injuries (the last run). Cross training, which includes multiple sports and activities in the conditioning regimen, has become popular, especially with a seasonal sport such as skiing. Strength and flexibility focusing on the legs and trunk are vital in injury prevention specific for skiing and hockey. Balance training has been shown to be the single most important exercise for preventing ACL tears in all sports. A typical conditioning program can include: 1. Aerobic fitness (five days/week for at least 30 minutes)Running, Cycling, Swimming, Elliptical or Stair Climber, Jumping Rope, Treadmill 2. Strength (3 days/week, 2 sets of 30-60 seconds each) Leg Press, Wall Squats, Hamstring Curls, Toe Raises, Lateral Leg Raises, Situps 3. Flexibility (daily, two sets of 30-60 seconds each) Hamstring Stretches, Achilles Stretches, Quad Stretches 4. Balance Exercises (daily, 2 sets of 30-60 seconds) Standing on one leg, Mini Squats, Single Leg Hop (holding landing for five seconds) Now is the time to initiate a program such as this. Give yourself a couple of weeks to see a real change in your strength, endurance, flexibility and balance before you really challenge yourself in your chosen sport. Gradually progress your self-guided program as you find it getting easier, and at the same rate amp up your skiing or skating. You will see a difference in your agility and ability while being capable of playing later into the day or the game. Finally, listen to your body. If in the course of training, conditioning or while on the ice or the mountain you begin experiencing pain—STOP! Have someone who knows more about your body than you examine you and clear you when appropriate to return to your winter fun. James Markwica, MS PT is a New York State Licensed Physical Therapist at LaMarco Physical Therapy, 417 Geyser Road in Ballston Spa and 30 Gick Road in Saratoga Springs. For questions of follow-up, contact James at (518) 587-3256 or online at
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