Risks of Injury Increase in Winter: 9 Tips to Stay Safe

Winter can be wonderful. But it can also be dangerous and can bring additional risks. For instance, icy patches can cause falls, shoveling snow improperly can cause back injury, and winter sports like skiing can cause serious injuries. While some accidents may only leave you with minor cuts or bruises, winter injuries have the potential to cause fractures, sprains, head trauma, back injuries and more.

While education alone cannot keep you 100 percent safe, learning about risks and how to prevent them makes you much less likely to suffer an injury. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you prevent injuries in winter.

  • Stretch out indoors before you perform any outdoor physical activity such as shoveling snow. Since cold muscles are more vulnerable to injury, this warm-up will help reduce your risk of muscle strain, sprain, soreness or stiffness.
  • Before scraping the ice from your windshield, make sure your footing is secure and you are not standing on ice.
  • Regularly salt your driveway, sidewalk and stairs to melt the ice and keep these surfaces safe for yourself, your family and anyone using them.
  • In warm weather, it is natural to reach for a glass of water, but in winter, you may not remember to drink as often. Staying hydrated is important any time of year. Dehydration can cause problems such as dizziness that could make you more prone to falls or injury.
  • Wear protective gear, including a helmet (even when you are sledding) and never participate in outdoor winter sports alone.
  • Wear sturdy footwear that not only keeps your feet warm and dry, but also properly supports your feet and ankles.
  • If you participate in sports like skiing and snowboarding, learn how to fall correctly and safely, which can reduce the risk of serious injury.
  • Be aware of the consistency of the snow you are shoveling. If it is light and fluffy, it may be easy to fill the shovel and clear a path. But if it is “wet” snow, it will be much heavier, and you could injure your back if you try to scoop and move the same volume of snow.
  • Exercising indoors is often safer than exercising outdoors in the winter time. The primary reason is the many dangerous and icy surfaces outside — both visible and hidden — that can cause you to fall.

Finally, if you, a family member or a friend is injured this winter, make sure to carefully assess the injury. If it is minor, you may only need an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen and a warm bath to feel better. However, if you suspect your injury is more severe, do not hesitate to see a doctor immediately, particularly if you suspect head injury or fracture.