Winter Injury prevention guide: Surviving This Winter

Physiotherapy blogs do a really good job of discussing how to prevent injuries as well as what to do about them. What I have noticed is that physiotherapists don’t talk about the injuries themselves.

  • What are some of the worst case scenarios if we don’t warm up?
  • What could happen if I don’t take additional care?
  • What does this mean to my life?

We will discuss some of the common winter injuries and injury prevention tactics that we often see in winter time, as well what does that mean for your winter.

FOOSH (Fall on Outstretched Hand)

FOOSHs are one of the most common injuries that we see in the clinic during winter. This type of fall usually results in breaking one of the two arm bones; the radius or the ulna. Some of these fractures will require surgery. Either way, they are often casted for 6 weeks.

Let’s think about this injury from a practical side. How will it impact your day-to-day life in winter? The bulkiness of the cast makes it very hard to wear long sleeve clothing. Trying to put on your jacket and your mitts is virtually impossible with a cast. I have had patients go out and buy clothing that is two sizes too big so that it can accommodate their new accessory. I’ve also had some lucky husbands have their wives alter existing shirts: adding zippers or relief slips in their sleeves. These options take time, money and resources.

Depending if it is your dominant hand or not the cast can make it very challenging to do day-to-day tasks like cooking, hygiene, work or play. This can make patients feel inadequate and dependent on loved ones. I have heard those first few months after the injury are some of the most difficult mentally.

Man Moving Snow

Back Strains

Often we see an influx of back strains about 1-2 weeks after a heavy snowfall. Back strains will occur when patients are trying to move large quantities of snow. Either there is a high repetition of backbends or that there is a single incident because the snow on their shovel is too heavy. Another popular time is when we are in that awkward freeze thaw phase as spring starts to tease us. Slips and falls are the second most common. The story that I’ve heard the most is that patients get out of their vehicle and slip after taking two steps. So they grab onto the side view mirror or the box of their truck.

What are some of the ramifications of back strains? I often see that people become very fearful. They become fearful to go outside; either to shovel snow or to travel. They also become fearful of moving. People become scared that once they have hurt their back that they have become more fragile and more prone to back injuries. Back injuries often have more psychological impact than physical; and greater long lasting effects.

Shoulder Injuries

The last injury that usually spikes during the winter are shoulder separations or dislocations. This is often due to winter sports and activities. Hockey, snowmobiling and snowboarding are the common culprits. When we have these types of injuries it usually means that the rest of your season is over. Patients are often in a sling anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks as their injury heals. Often once a patient finishes using their sling, they feel very good. What they may not realize is that that joint isn’t as strong or as stable as it was pre-injury. Patients that have experienced a separated shoulder or dislocation often skip their rehab but then become a repeat offender with a similar injury down the road. That shoulder usually gets deemed the “bad shoulder” and patients limit their activity; avoiding things that may cause reinjury.

When we are talking about competitive sports, losing that year of development could have a negative impact on their future.

winter injury prevention guide Summary

Injuries of any magnitude have both physical implications as well as psychological. No one ever wants to be injured. If we are aware of what that injury may look like we can better prepare ourselves for what is to come. What I’ve noticed when patients are blindsided by the realities of their injury or do not have a clear understanding what the future holds; they are likely to have a longer and a harder recovery.

This blog isn’t meant to be full of Doom and Gloom. I want this to be used as an education point. If you read this and experience an injury down the road; you are better prepared for what is to come. Knowledge is power. Preparedness leads to a better recovery.