Tips for Staying Injury Free During the Winter Season
The winter season can provide the ultimate playground for some very exciting and adventurous sports activities. I am most familiar with ice hockey, where I started skating before I can remember on a lake in my backyard. I played hockey at various levels, graduating from my younger days of pond hockey to playing at the amateur-travel level, then collegiately, and then playing professionally. In addition to ice hockey, other winter sports such as figure skating, skiing, and snowboarding are also excellent activities for anyone refusing to give-in to hibernation during the cold winter months!
Although winter sports can be fun, competitive, and invigorating, injuries are very common at all skill levels. Here are some examples of common injuries associated with winter sports:
- Ice Hockey – the inner thighs and shoulders are susceptible to injury based on the movements involved with skating and checking. As an ice hockey goalie, I’ve had to overcome years of aggravated muscle strains in both groin areas and I’ve also suffered a separated shoulder from an unexpected impact with an opposing player.
- Skiing – torn ligaments around the knees as well as shoulder injuries are very common for skiers. The lower body stresses of skiing can be very demanding on the knees, especially when skiing through harsh snow and ice conditions, and the shoulders can be vulnerable to awkward impacts when falling on compacted snow or ice.
- Snowboarding – a long day of snowboarding alone can put abnormal stress on the lower back and quadriceps. Also, wrist and arm injuries are common with snowboarding, especially when being subject to repeated or unexpected falls.
To reduce your risk of injury this season, it is especially important to follow these three basic tips to stay safe and have fun this winter:
Tip #1 – Do your Homework on Off-Days – Cross Train
Supplementing winter activities with Cross Training is essential to strengthening the correct muscle groups and maintaining ample flexibility to protect vulnerable joints and ligaments that are susceptible to injury. Below includes a series of cross training exercises you can do on off-days to prepare yourself for your favorite activity.
- Curtesy Lunge with Rotation
- Lateral Lunge
- Plank and Twist
- Step-up and Twist
Tip #2 – Perform Proper Stretches Before and After Your Winter Activity
Performing pre-activity stretching will help activate your muscles and properly prepare them for the stresses involved with the winter sport. Also, don’t forget to perform post-activity stretching, which will help relax and recover your muscles after you’ve completed your sport that day. Below includes a list of stretches that can be performed pre- and post- activity during your winter time “game-day”!
- Groin / Inner Thigh Stretch
- Figure 4 / Outer Thigh Stretch
- Upper / Lower Back Stretch
- Shoulder Stretch
- Chest Stretch
Tip #3 – Gear up Properly
Winter sports can pose other risks that are related to your surroundings. There is an excellent link available on the Total Gym Pulse network: http://totalgymdirect.com/total-gym-blog/cold-weather-gear-for-winter-fitness that discusses tips for preparing for the harsh outdoor weather conditions, including suggestions of layering your clothes and protecting your skin from the sun. I’ll add that having proper fitting equipment and always wearing a helmet are two musts when it comes to safety and performance.
Best of luck this winter as you take on what this season has to offer. But be sure to prepare yourself properly to ensure you can have the most fun, perform at your best, and are safe while doing so!