A Winter Wonderland of Injuries: How to Prevent the Most Common Culprits

Fractures, concussions and frostbite are three of the top types of winter injuries. Learn how these injuries most commonly occur, how to treat them and prevent them.

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 US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

  • 144,000 injuries from snow skiing
  • 148,000 injuries from snow boarding
  • 58,500 injuries from ice skating
  • 91,000 injuries from sledding and tobogganing

Three of the top types of injuries caused by these activities are fractures, concussions and frostbite. More specifically, here are the injuries we see at The Urgency Room during the winter season:

  • Broken wrist or fractured tailbone from slipping and falling on the ice.
  • Concussions or TBI (traumatic brain injury) from a bump blow or jolt to the head during ice skating or more commonly from skiing.
  • Wrist and elbow injuries from falling while snowboarding. A Distal Radius Fracture is a very common wrist fracture that occurs during a fall on a hand stretched out to break the fall. This fracture is often treated with a cast.
  • Bennett’s Fracture of the Thumb or Skier’s Thumb occurs as the result of a fall, and people who participate in activities like ice-skating, skiing, and snowboarding are at high risk. Another common injury is skier’s thumb, where a skier excessively stretches out their thumb causing a fracture or a torn ligament. These two injuries usually require surgery to realign the bones and stabilize the joint area.
  • Ankle Fracture is the most common fracture that occurs with twisting injuries during winter months. These injuries occur when the bones of the ankle sustain injury from a fall or twisting type injury. Surgery is often necessary for ankle fractures to achieve proper alignment during the healing process.
  • Fractures, broken bones and head trauma from skitching- where a person grabs a car’s rear bumper and slides on the soles of the shoes, or is pulled by ropes on inner tubes or sleds through icy streets.
  • Fractures and concussions associated with sledding

These injuries happen to those sledding down the hill and anyone in the way of a sled coming down the hill at a fast speed. 

  • Frostbite from a variety of activities

From toes and fingers to noses… frostbite is a serious condition that needs to be treated immediately.

While common sense is one of the best defenses against winter fractures and concussions, there are a few other steps you can take:

  • Always wear a helmet with skiing or snowboarding.
  • Keep 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.
  • Check that equipment is working properly prior to use.
  • 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.
  • Wear layers when it is cold and STAY INSIDE to avoid the two factors that contribute to frostbite: low wind chill and low temperatures.


—Dr. Gary Gosewisch, ER Physician and CEO of the Urgency Room in Woodbury

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tricia Wood January 18, 2013 at 04:05 AM
We have ballroom dance students of ours tell us they have improved balance and have saved themselves from falling, since taking dance lessons!


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