With the Winter Olympics right around the corner, it’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of being an Olympic athlete and forget that injuries are a serious and all too common part of winter sports.  Ice skating, hockey, and skiing are all fun but come with the chance of serious injury occurring.  These injuries can range from muscle pulls to bone breaks and concussions.  We here at AFC Urgent Care have some useful tips to keep you off the sidelines and in the game this winter.

Warm Up and Cool Down!

No matter what sport you’re participating in, warming up muscles before participating is the first thing you should do.  Whether you are out in the cold temperatures or in a cold ice rink your muscles will thank you if you follow a short warm up routine.  Start with some light cardio like jumping jacks followed by stretching out your legs, arms and back in particular.  This simple process will help to prevent pulled muscles and injuries due to your body not being ready for vigorous activities.  A nice stretch after you’re done is also a good idea to loosen up joints and muscles and increase flexibility.

Hitting the Slopes

Skiing and snowboarding are two of the most popular winter activities but they both come with a lot of risks.  It is important to wear a well-fitting helmet each time you hit the slopes, replacing it immediately after just one accident to ensure its integrity for future use.  Along with the helmet, ski boots should fit snugly around the ankle to prevent ankle twists another common winter sports injury.  Having proper fitting boots can also prevent knee injuries that result from falling out of equipment that does not fit.  Wearing warm gloves or mittens helps in stopping frost bite, especially on those bitter cold January days.  Even though we all want the most out of our days on the mountain be sure to go inside and warm up occasionally during the day to give your body a rest and a chance to warm up.  Lastly, be sure to wear plenty of layers and use common sense when venturing out.  If the temperatures are too cold it may be a good day to stay home.

A Day at the Ice Rink

Other fun Winter sports are those that take place at the ice rink.  Whether at the local hockey rink or the frozen pond in the backyard, there are some precautions to take before you strap on the skates.  As with skiing making sure your hockey or figure skates fit well to prevent ankle injuries.  If your interest is hockey, be sure to wear a helmet, chest pad, shin guards, elbow pads, and gloves.  Frozen hockey pucks can be very dangerous when traveling fast and concussions are an all too common occurrence during hockey games.   Always follow the rules of the ice rink and look out for ruts in the ice that can be tripping hazards.  If the jumps and spins of figure skating are more up your alley, make sure you know how to fall properly, avoiding landing on the vulnerable wrists and hands.  Even though you may be working up a sweat, it is a good idea to wear heavy socks and a pair of gloves to help prevent frostbite on your extremities.

There are many benefits of winter sports including exercise, fresh air, and social interactions.  Most of the time the benefits of participating in sports outweigh the risks, but it is still important to stay prepared.  Keep a first aid kit in your car or at your house ready to go.  Include items like band aids, gauze, tape, and emergency ice packs.  Winter sports are more fun together so don’t go alone.  Having someone on the mountain or in the ice rink with you means that in the case you do get injured someone will be there to help you.

With these helpful tips, you should stay safe this Winter to enjoy all that sports have to offer, but do not forget that AFC Urgent Care in Waltham is here 7-days a week from 8:00am-8:00pm to help out with any Winter sports injuries.  You will be seen by a board-certified physician and our average wait time is under 15 minutes!  Did we mention that every exam room has a flat screen TV? Don’t wait until your injury gets worse – come see us today!