Avoiding Brain And Spinal Injury During Winter Activities

Many of the most popular winter activities, like sledding, skating, and skiing, depend upon slick and frozen terrain. Unfortunately, though, the conditions that make these winter activities possible may also increase the chances of severe injury. In recent years, as the medical research concerning the dangers of concussion and other brain trauma has advanced, doctors and athletic trainers have become more vigilant about warning winter athletes and thrill-seekers of the possibility of injury. In order to enjoy winter activities in a safe, responsible manner, there are a few basic guidelines that every person should know.

Sledding is an activity that individuals of all ages can enjoy, but it also carries one of the highest risks of brain and spinal injury. Indeed, the most common injuries sustained while sledding are to the head and neck region. This typically occurs during a collision with a stationary object, as for instance a parked car or a tree. Tragically, many of these injuries could be avoided through the use of a helmet. Ice skating is another potentially dangerous activity. It is an odd fact that despite the clear similarities between rollerblading and ice skating, it is much more socially acceptable to ice skate without a helmet. Many parents who would not dream of allowing their children to rollerblade without a helmet, show no concern when their children ice skate without any protective gear. Unfortunately, this attitude results in scores of head and neck injuries every year. Some studies even suggest that head injuries are more likely to occur during ice skating than during any other kind of skating.

Thankfully, most parents are aware of the potential dangers of ice hockey. Helmets are mandatory in all organized hockey leagues, though many children playing in pick-up games may neglect this essential protective gear. Hockey can be responsible for injuries to almost every part of the body, although the most common area of injury is the upper arm and shoulder.

Skiing and snowboarding, meanwhile, remain unappreciated sources of brain and spinal cord injury. Although dozens of people die every year from head trauma sustained while skiing or snowboarding, helmets remain uncommon on the slopes. Skiers and snowboarders are most likely to sustain these injuries through collision with some stationary object.

All of these popular winter sports carry some risk of brain or spinal injury. There are, however, ways to minimize the danger. First of all, helmets should always be worn while skiing, snowboarding, sledding, skating, or playing hockey. Numerous studies have shown that the lack of a helmet is the primary risk factor for fatal brain trauma. Another way to decrease the danger of winter sports is to become familiar with the terrain. In other words, before you begin skiing or sledding, take a moment to walk around the slope. Look especially for any trees in the middle of the path, or for any obstacles jutting from the ground. Too often, skiers, sledders, and snowboarders spy these deadly obstacles when there is too little time to avoid them. Another way to diminish the risk of injury while skiing, sledding, skating, or snowboarding is to avoid crowded locations. In tight packs of people, it may be more difficult to see potential obstacles, and there may be a greater risk of tripping over another person’s skis or snowboard. Finally, make sure that there is adequate supervision for the activity. Children should not be allowed to play hockey without some adult supervision. Similarly, adults should not go skiing alone in secluded locations. It is important that, in the event of an injury, there is another person who can go and get help.

With these basic guidelines in mind, you should be able to enjoy winter activities without endangering yourself or others. As long as the participants are safe, sober, and responsible, there is no reason to avoid having fun in the snow and ice.


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