How to avoid injury in winter weather

It’s winter in Kansas City again and we all know that often means: snow and ice.

By Sandy Foster

According to the National Weather Service, the Kansas City area sees approximately 18.8” of snow each year. If the snow wasn’t slippery enough, many winter storms that come through our area often begin with light freezing rain or sleet, making for extra slick conditions.

Kevin Witte, D.O.

Did you know thousands of people in the United States seek treatment at medical facilities each year due to injuries associated with winter weather activities such as snow shoveling? According to Dr. Kevin Witte, D.O., of Sano Orthopedics in Lee’s Summit, they see a lot of soft tissue injuries every winter. According to Witte, many of these can be prevented by adhering to the following suggestions:

  • Wear proper footwear made for icy and snowy conditions,
  • Keep your stride shorter and avoid taking long steps,
  • Take your time and don’t hurry,
  • Do not go out if you don’t have to,
  • Thoroughly and regularly salt driveways and stairs,
  • Wipe your feet when entering a building. Warn others if you see slippery floor areas,
  • Try pushing snow instead of lifting or twisting to throw it over your shoulder,
  • If available, use a hand railing,
  • Take frequent breaks when shoveling,
  • To reduce bending, use an ergonomically designed snow shovel.

Another suggestion from Witte: “During slick conditions, the mail and newspaper can be left until there are warmer/safer conditions.”

Dress Warm

Witte also advises wearing warm attire for athletes participating in outdoor sports as well as those who may be venturing outside in winter weather. “Be sure to dress appropriately to keep muscles warm,” he says. “It’s more important than ever to make sure you do appropriate warm-up exercises prior to activity. Cold temperatures and slick weather increase exercise-related strains and sprains as well as injuries from falls and slips.”

Appropriate winter weather wear includes wearing several layers of light, loose, and water and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection. Additionally, sports and exercise enthusiasts should wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves, and padding.

In Case of Injury

If you do suffer an injury as a result of winter weather, and you are able to put your weight on the injured leg, you should apply ice to the area to help decrease inflammation and swelling. Witte recommends icing the area for 20 minutes at a time: 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. This cycle can be repeated and should be done for the first 24 to 48 hours following an injury, or longer if needed. Should you fall and obtain a more serious injury, or are unable to walk or bear weight, seek immediate medical attention.

Sano Orthopedic and Sports Urgent Care facility in Lee’s Summit is open for walk-in patients from 8 am to 8 pm, Monday through Friday. Sano Orthopedics has two locations, one in Lee’s Summit at 2861 NE Independence Avenue, and a second location in Overland Park, Kansas. They can be reached at (816) 525-2840.

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