Winter Sports Safety

It is hard to be active in the winter. We all want to hide inside and become couch potatoes while chanting the popular moniker, “Is it summer yet?!” Don’t let the winter weather keep you inside.

Sitting around all day is not a good cure for back pain. The more you get out and get active the better you will feel. Who knows you might even begin to enjoy the winter? It’s a stretch but you never know!

The outdoor fun starts with being prepared. It is all fun and games until someone sustains an injury; in the winter weather, there are plenty of ways to get hurt. When it comes to winter sports it is important to keep safety in mind at all times.

Outdoor Winter Sports

This is just a short list of some fun winter sports you can participate in, please feel free to comment and add some of your favorite winter sports we might have missed! Maybe you are not one for winter sports, even while building a snowman you are exposed to the elements and it is important to be prepared and know the risks involved.

  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Hockey
  • Ice skating
  • Figure Skating
  • Sledding
  • Tobogganing
  • Snow shoeing
  • Running
  • Snowmobiling

Cold Hard Facts

Every year many people sustain injuries while playing outdoors in the winter. Try not to be intimidated by these injury facts, they are not to scare you but it is important to understand the dangers you may encounter in order to practice proper safety.

  •  In the United States, 3.8 Million people suffered winter sports injuries in 2013.
  • 23,000 concussions result from playing winter sports each year (1/3 of those are children)
  • Concussions are the leading cause of death and disability among skiers and snowboarders.
  • 440,000 people were treated at hospitals, doctors’ offices and emergency rooms for winter sports-related injuries in 2010.
    • 144,000 snow skiing injuries
    • 148,000 snowboarding injuries
    • 58,500 ice skating injuries
    • 91,000 sledding/tobogganing injuries

Common Outdoor Winter Sports Injuries

When you are out in the elements, certain injuries are more common than others. Here is a short list of some common injuries sustained in winter weather and participating in outdoor sports. For further explanations see definitions at the end of the article.
Frostbite: occurs when body tissue freezes and causing cell death

  •  “Superficial frostbite” only affects the skin
  • “Deep” frostbite affects tissue below the skin

Hypothermia: when the body’s core temperature has fallen below (35°C) 95°F. When the body is that cold the brain is affected and clear thinking is difficult.
Dehydration: a lack of water in the body, happens more easily and quickly in cold temperatures
Snow blindness: overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays to the eyes, even with no direct sunlight snow blindness is possible
Sunburn: redness of skin or slight swelling, pain and blistering due to prolonged exposure to sunlight
Neck Injuries:

  • Whiplash

Lower back injuries:

  • Strain or sprain
  • Compressed discs
  • Damaged vertebrae

Spinal Injuries:

  • Sprain or a strain – ligaments or muscles can keep you off of your feet for weeks
  •  Fracture or dislocation – could damage spinal chord leading to partial or full paralysis

Finger, hand and wrist injuries:

  •  Broken wrist or fingers
  • Torn thumb ligaments

Head injuries:

  • Concussion
  • Brain Injury

Foot or ankle injuries:

  • Strains and sprains
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Ankle fractures

Shoulder Injuries:

  • Strains and sprains
  • Dislocation
  • Separation

Hip Injuries:

  • Fractured femur
  • Labral Tear
  • Hip Dislocation

Knee Injuries:

  • ACL Injury
  • MCL Injury
  • Cartilage damage
  • Meniscal tear
  • Fractured knee cap
  • Knee dislocation

Common Symptoms of Sports Injuries

It is important to be wary of any symptoms you may experience while outdoors. Some conditions can escalate quickly so do not underestimate any potential symptoms.

  •  Swelling
  • Headache
  • Inflammation
  • Burning, dull pain
  • Muscle pains
  • Muscle spasms

Risk Factors

Avoid these risk factors in order to reduce the likelihood of winter injuries. Do not let your adrenaline get the best of you be sure to always participate within your abilities and quit when you are tired.

  •  Dehydration
  • Over-activity
  • Sick or injured
  • Poor judgment
  • Wind, cold, rain
  • Physical stamina
  • Inadequate training
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Alcohol or nicotine use
  • Long exposure to the cold
  • Poor adjustment to altitude
  • Previous cold weather injury
  • Poor clothing and equipment
  • Changing your footing to increase traction

Preventing Outdoor Winter Sports Injuries

Prevention is the name of the game. You can avoid a lot of injuries and problems in the cold weather by being prepared. Make sure you are physically fit and have all of the equipment you need before heading outside. The winter can be a great time to get outside but you should never underestimate the weather.

  • Take lessons
  • Rest regularly
  • Avoid getting wet
  • Bring spare clothes
  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Never participate alone
  • Carry snacks/energy bars
  • Wear sunglasses/goggles
  • Be aware of sun exposure
  • Take note of wind chill factor
  • Use sunscreen and lip balm
  • Supervise children in the cold
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Be aware of forecasted weather
  • Dress appropriately for the temperature
  • Wear layers of light, loose clothing
  • Wear shoes/boots with good treads
  • Ensure equipment is the proper fit
  • Keep in shape and condition muscles
  • Check equipment is working properly
  • Know and abide by all rules of the sport
  • Learn how to fall (on your side or buttocks)
  • Limit exposure of your skin to the environment
  • Don’t push it – quit when you are tired or hurting
  • Know your ability and do not push your boundaries
  • Train outdoors to acclimate yourself to cold weather
  • Warm-up and cool-down before and after all physical activity

Treating Winter Injuries

If you do find yourself plagued with a winter injury, do not panic. Stay calm and follow the proper treatment procedures for your ailment. If you are unsure, always seek medical attention.

  • Remove wet clothing
  • Get warm by moving indoors or somewhere warmer, and wrapping in a blanket
  • Elevate affected area, and maybe place it in warm (not hot) water
  • Try not to rub or walk on affected area (carry children if feet are frostbite)
  • Drink warm, non-caffeinated fluids


  • Move to a warm place and call for help
  • If care is not available/while waiting for help
    • Get into a warm shelter
    • Remove any wet clothing
    • Warm center of your body first (chest, head, neck, and groin)
    • Take sips of a warm beverage


  • Begin with sips and gradually drink more and more liquid
  • Dehydration includes salt and sugar so rehydrate with sports drinks

Snow blindness:

  • Get out of the sunlight and see a doctor if symptoms persist


  • Soothing skin creams in mild cases
  • In severe cases seek medical attention

Strains and Sprains:

  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)

How can Chiropractic help?

Chiropractic is proven to not only help treat but also prevent injuries in your neck, back, shoulders, knees, and ankles. Relieving tension and asserting balance through a chiropractic adjustment is a great way to stay in shape and help avoid all of these common injuries we have been discussing.

Contact Dr. Galioto today to learn more about how you can benefit from Chiropractic care.



  • Fracture – The cracking or breaking of a bone
  • Dislocation – injury or disability caused when the normal position of a joint or other part of the body is disturbed.
  • Herniated disc (also known as a compressed disc) – a condition of advanced deterioration of a spinal disc.
  • Whiplash – injury caused by severe jerk to the head, typically in a motor vehicle accident
  • Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) – is an insult to the spinal cord resulting in a change, either temporary or permanent in the cord’s normal motor, sensory, or automatic function
  •  Traumatic Brain Injury – Brain dysfunction caused by an outside force, usually a violent blow to the head
  • Damaged Vertebrae – A fracture or dislocation of vertebrae can cause bone fragments to pinch and damage the spinal nerves or spinal cord (usually caused by car accidents, falls, gunshots or sports)
  • Tendonitis – Pain, and dysfunction of a joint because of inflammation caused by too much exercise and repetitive motion.
  • Shin Splints – Micro-fractures of the shin bone on the front of the lower part of leg

Download our tip sheet for Winter Sports Safety

Winter Sports Safety