Get ready for winter: Common injuries and how to prevent them
Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Alex Meininger provides advice on how to stay safe for various winter sports this season
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With an abundance of winter sports and recreational activities to participate in, there’s a reason so many people choose to reside in northwest Colorado. It’s important to be wary of any injury risks and to know what to do to prevent getting hurt this season.
“Wintertime is one of our busiest seasons because winter activities, ranging from cross country skiing to snowmobiling, are why a lot of people choose to live here,” said Dr. Alex Meininger, an MRH visiting orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist from the Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute. “Any effort we can put into our preseason will maximize our experiences and help us avoid injury during the winter season.”
Common injuries during the winter
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, nearly 200,000 winter sports enthusiasts and athletes were treated at hospitals, doctors’ offices and emergency rooms nationwide for their injuries in 2018.
Common injuries this time of year involve the body’s lower extremities, such as knee or leg injuries. Examples include ACL tears, meniscus injuries, broken legs or feet, and other sprains, strains, dislocations and fractures. Upper body and shoulder injuries are also common from overuse, crashes and attempts to break falls.
Many, if not most, injuries happen toward the end of the day and are caused by exhaustion. If you’re in pain or tired from a full day of activity, Dr. Meininger recommends stopping physical activity immediately.
“Patients don’t always listen to their bodies, which is how they can get hurt,” he said. “A weak, tired body may be more prone to injury.”
How to prevent injuries this season
Any work you can put in ahead of the season will make your winter sport of choice easier and more enjoyable.
If you enjoy downhill skiing or snowboarding, Dr. Meininger recommends enhancing strength and endurance. Do squats in your living room, get on an exercise bike or go for a run/walk. Skiing is a high-cardiovascular sport, so the better cardio shape you’re in, the more likely you’ll have the stamina to endure a full day of activity.
When building cardiovascular activity, start short — at about 30 minutes — and build your stamina so that you can go for longer each week. With higher stamina comes better knowledge of how to react when your body is tired.
For more experienced skiers, Dr. Meininger recommends focusing on strengthening the muscle groups in the front thigh, back thigh, quads and hamstrings. Building muscle that supports your knees on the slopes and provides you with good stability will improve your action and response times on the mountain.
Recommended exercises include:
• Squats and lunges in the gym
• Dynamic movements such as HIIT workouts
• Power-building exercises such as box jumps and step-ups
• Jump roping to build strength and improve coordination and reflexes
The same tips are valid for snowmobilers and individuals who enjoy power or motor sports. These types of activities are intense exercises that require upper and lower body strength. Focus on shoulder, back, abs and glute exercises.
“Strength is still important for power activities and so is listening to your body,” Dr. Meininger said. “You need to be in good enough shape to make on-the-fly calls that could protect you in the long run.”
Additional tips for injury prevention from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons include wearing appropriate protective gear, ensuring equipment is working properly before using it, warming up before any activity and never participating in a winter sport alone.
Unfortunately, accidents can still happen no matter how experienced you are. Your recovery time and next steps depend on the injury. Larger injuries like broken legs will need to go to the ER, and they may cut your season short. Less intense injuries like knee sprains can be treated with rest, compression wraps and anti-inflammatories.
“The injury dictates urgency and treatment,” Dr. Meininger said. “We offer patients state-of-the-art care in Craig and Steamboat. We are fully prepared to look at minor and intense problems to provide guidance.”
We hope you stay safe this winter, but if you do get hurt, Memorial Regional Health is here to provide exceptional care. Our partnership with the Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute (SOSI) brings high-quality orthopaedic, sports medicine and spinal healthcare to Craig and Moffat County — no travel necessary.
SOSI providers offer expert diagnosis and state-of-the-art treatment of any injury or chronic condition of the musculoskeletal system with sub-specialty expertise in the areas of hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, total joint replacement, foot/ankle and operative and non-operative spine.
To learn more about orthopaedic services offered, or to schedule an orthopaedic appointment at MRH in Craig, call 970-826-2450 or go to memorialregionalhealth.com/healthcare-services/orthopaedic-total-joint-spine.
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