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Winter Sports Safety
- Slowly ease back into your winter sports. Give your body time to get used to these activities again. Include strengthening exercises that can help you perform at your best.
- Make sure you are in good physical condition for activities in the cold. If you are unsure, check with your doctor.
- Warm up before all sports.
- Make sure your equipment and protective gear is in good condition and fits well.
- Always wear the appropriate protective gear for your sport.
- Dress properly for the cold. Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia.
- Wear several layers of tops and pants under warm jackets. Wear hats and water-resistant gloves. Face masks may be necessary for very cold weather.
- Protect your eyes from snow glare with shatter-proof sunglasses or goggles with UV protection.
- Take lessons to improve your ability. Better skills will allow you to adjust to changing conditions.
- Many organizations, like the National Ski Areas Association recommend the use of helmets for winter sports to prevent head injury.
Skiing and Snowboarding
- Take lessons from an expert. Evidence supports that beginners are hurt more frequently. The quicker you improve, the safer you will be on the slopes.
- Stick with your abilities. Do not attempt to ski a slope that is beyond your personal abilities. Ski marked trails and observe trail signs. Rest when you get tired.
- Be sure that equipment is properly maintained and clean—no dirt or salt between boots, bindings, and the binding mechanism.
- Properly adjust bindings to reduce the chance of leg injuries. Test your ability to escape bindings by standing in the skis, then twisting to release the toe and heel pieces
- Wear the proper gear for snowboarding. This includes snowboarding pants, wrist guards, arm guards, and shin guards.
- When approaching the lift, be aware pieces of clothing that could become entangled.
- Wear a helmet specifically designed for snow sports.
- Always ski or board with a buddy.
- Know and observe all the rules about crossing a trail, passing, and stopping.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Wear bright colors.
- If you are cross-country skiing for long distances, take snacks, water, and first aid supplies with you.
- Skate with a buddy or at least make sure there are other people around.
- Stick to shallow flooded fields and supervised areas.
- Avoid lakes, ponds, or rivers until the ice has been tested by a local official.
- Never skate close to open bodies of water.
- Supervise all small children.
- Never build fires on ice.
- Avoid driving cars on ice.
In case of a fall into icy water, the National Drowning Prevention Alliance suggests:
- Do not climb out right away. Kick into a horizontal position and try to slide onto solid ice.
- When out of the water, roll away and do not stand until you put several body lengths between you and the broken ice.
- To rescue others that have fallen through the ice:
- Call 911 right away and do not walk up to the break.
- Use a reaching aid, such as a rope. If possible, form a human chain, each person holding onto the heels of the next person.
- If you have to go onto the ice, distribute weight by lying flat over a wide area. Try to use another reaching aid to close the distance between you and the break in the ice.
- Always wear protective equipment. This includes helmets, pads, hockey pants, gloves, athletic supporter or cup, and neck protector.
- Make sure everything fits you properly and that it is in good condition.
- Show good sportsmanship. Do not hit other players and bystanders who happen to get in the way.
- Do not engage in fighting.
Sledding and Tobogganing
- Make sure your sled is in good condition. Repair any broken parts, split wood, or sharp edges. If you cannot get your sled repaired, get a new one. Sleds that steer are a safer option.
- Never sled on the street or on hills that lead directly into the street.
- Never hook rides on the bumpers of cars.
- Make sure that slopes do not have bumps, big rocks, trees, or tree stumps.
- Avoid steep hills where you could gain too much speed and may not be able to stop.
- Do not go sledding on frozen lakes or ponds unless the ice has been tested by a local official and declared safe.
- Keep hands, arms, and legs inside to avoid limb injuries.
- Fence posts
- Cars, moving and stationary
- Barbed wire—can cause death by decapitation
- A helmet with a face guard or goggles. Helmets should be designed for high-speed motor sports.
- Layers of clothing for warmth. Be sure that your clothing does not have any parts that could get caught in the snowmobile.
- Become familiar with the particular model of snowmobile before driving. Even if you are an experienced driver, accidents can happen if you are unfamiliar with the model.
- Inspect the entire machine—brakes, throttle control, lights, and emergency shut-off switch before departing. Be sure you have a full tank of gas.
- Take extra spark plugs, tools, a first aid kit, and other repair and survival supplies, such as flares and matches.
- Know the terrain. Know where fences, gullies, branches, fallen logs, barbed wire, and rocks may be hidden. Beware of open bodies of water and thin ice.
- Travel on marked trails.
- Avoid driving at night and in bad weather. A single strand of barbed wire is hard to see.
- Remember that the loud noise generated by the snowmobile may prevent hearing approaching trains, cars, and other snowmobiles. Be alert.
- Travel in groups. In case of emergencies, someone can go for help.
National Safety Council http://www.nsc.org/
US Consumer Product Safety Commission http://www.cpsc.gov/
Canada Safety Council http://www.safety-council.org/
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/
American Council of Snowmobile Associations. Snowmobile safety. American Council of Snowmobile Associations. Available at: http://www.snowmobilers.org/facts%5Fsafety.html. Accessed November 13, 2012.
Chaze B. Head injuries in winter sports: downhill skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowmobiling, ice skating and ice hockey. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2009;20(1):287-293.
Ducharme MB. Winter activities and sports. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2006/11000/Prevention%5Fof%5FCold%5FInjuries%5Fduring%5FExercise.19.aspx . Accessed November 16, 2012.
Extreme Winter Sports Can Lead to Extreme Injuries. National Safety Council website. Available at http://www.nsc.org/safetyhealth/Pages/Extremewintersportscanleadtoextremeinjuries%5F2.14.11.aspx. Accessed November 14, 2012.
National Ski Area Association. Helmets: questions and answers. National Ski Area Association website. Available at: http://www.nsaa.org/nsaa/safety/helmets%5FQA.asp. Accessed November 13, 2012.
Safety Tips. Teens Health website. Available at http://kidshealth.org/teen/food%5Ffitness/sports/safety%5Fsnowboarding.html#Updated February 2010. Accessed November 14, 2012.
Winter Sports Safety. Safe Kids website. Available at safekids.orgAccessed November 13, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 11/2012
- Update Date: 11/16/2012