Winter weather conditions bring with them a variety of potential risks for personal injury, as well as injury to others. Some of the most common winter incidents that lead to personal injury include:
- Falling on ice and snow
- Experiencing muscle strain from shoveling snow or scraping ice off the car
- Driving and motor vehicle collisions
- Accidents while playing winter sports and activities
Not all incidents will cause severe injury, but some winter accidents can be quite serious, especially for certain age groups and for people suffering from previous injuries.
SLIPPING AND FALLING ON ICE AND SNOW
Slipping and falling on ice can be a scary experience. Ice can be difficult to see both at night and during the day. What looks like water pooled on the pavement can actually be a sheet of ice. You could step off the curb and right onto a slippery ice patch. You may be able to recover and only skid briefly, but severe injury can occur if you fall to the ground. Potential injuries from falls on ice can include the following:
- Head injury
- Ankle strains and twists
- Hip and wrist fractures
One of the most loathsome winter jobs is shoveling the driveway and sidewalk. It can take a long time and require a lot of physical exertion. The low temperatures make the task of shoveling snow even more unpleasant. The repetitive actions of twisting and lifting while shoveling can cause severe strain on the body. All it takes is one muscle to be pulled the wrong way for your back, neck or shoulders to seize up.
Snow shoveling can be a potentially risky duty that can cause severe injury. A national study found that over the course of eleven years, there was an average of 11,500 emergency room visits due to snow shoveling injuries. The most common injuries reported were soft tissue injuries mostly to the lower back region. Among the remaining injury reports, lacerations and fractures were also reported, including injuries to the hands, arms, and head.
DRIVING AND COLLISIONS
Most of us must continue to work and carry on with our normal, everyday activities even in snowy winter weather conditions. But if you aren’t prepared for winter driving conditions and don’t take the proper safety precautions, you can put yourself and others at risk. A study found that over a period of ten years, there were over 445,000 people injured as a result of weather-related vehicle collisions. The winter weather brings with it all kinds of potentially hazardous road conditions, such as:
- Wet pavement
- Sleet and slush
- Full coverings of snow and ice
FALLING OR COLLIDING DURING WINTER ACTIVITIES
One of the most enjoyable parts of winter is the fun you and your family can have with all kinds of winter activities and sports. From ice hockey and skating to skiing and snowboarding, there are plenty of ways to stay active and have fun in the winter. For kids especially, sledding and tobogganing are some of the best childhood memories of their winter seasons.
These winter activities can be quite risky if you aren’t practicing safety. Falls and collisions in many winter activities can cause several forms of injury. Broken bones and stiff muscles and joints are some of the most frequently reported injuries when it comes to outdoor sports and activities. Running outdoors along the sidewalk or on trails can also pose safety risks if the pavement isn’t salted and the trails aren’t properly cleared.
TYPES OF WINTER INJURIES
These incidents produce various types of injuries, which can range from mild and easily treatable to severe and long-term. Some of the resultant injuries from these winter accidents most commonly include:
- Head injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Back injuries
- Neck pain and tension
- Knee joint pain and soreness
- Wrist sprains
- Elbow fractures and dislocation
- Ankle sprains and strains
- Hip fracture and soreness
Head injuries occur during the winter as a result of any number of incidents. Mostly commonly, falling on ice and hitting your head on the pavement can lead to a potentially serious brain injury. If this occurs, it will need immediate treatment by a physician. A brain injury can be difficult to treat, and often the symptoms won’t be noticed until long after the injury has occurred.
Head injuries can occur during winter activities like tobogganing, snowboarding and skiing, or one can also occur as a result of a motor vehicle collision, which has the potential to lead to serious long-term health consequences.
Shoulder injuries commonly occur when you fall on icy pavement. When your shoulder meets contact with the hard ice-covered pavement, dislocation can occur. This damage to the shoulder joint can be quite severe and leave you suffering from soreness and bruising for a long time afterward.
A torn rotator cuff can happen as the result of repetitive overhead motions from winter sports or shoveling snow. This muscle tear can leave you feeling sore and stiff and may result in a chronic injury as well.
There are plenty of winter incidents and activities that can cause a back injury. The most common injury associated with shoveling snow is to the back, specifically the lower back. Back injuries can also be the result of a serious fall on the icy pavement or on the stairs. Falls during winter sports and activities can also result in a back injury.
Another common way to injure your back during the winter time is by scraping your car’s windshield to remove ice and snow. The bending and leaning motion your body performs while reaching across to scrape the ice can result in pulled and strained back muscles.
Depending on the level of severity, treating a back injury with heat may help to relax sore muscles. An injury that is caused by a fall on ice may damage your spine, so treatment by a physician will be required.
Like back and shoulder injuries, neck injuries can occur due to a number of different winter incidents. The repetitive motion of shoveling snow can certainly lead to stiffness and soreness in the neck muscles. Neck injuries can also happen when scraping snow and ice from your car’s windshield when your muscles become strained from leaning and reaching.
These injuries can usually be treated with a heating pad to relax tense neck muscles. If a neck injury is caused by a fall or a motor vehicle collision, it should be treated at the emergency room.
KNEE PAIN AND STRAIN
High-impact winter sports can be very damaging to your knees over a period of time. This type of injury usually occurs while performing activities and sports such as skiing and snowboarding, where your knees are absorbing the shock of hard landings. Running outdoors on pavement can also cause a similar injury to your knees. The best thing to do with a knee injury is to take it easy until it heals, avoiding any high-impact activities.
WRIST FRACTURES AND STRAINS
A fall on the icy pavement can cause wrist injuries such as fractures and strains. When you take a fall, your natural instinct is to extend your arms and brace your fall with your hands. The impact of the fall on your hands can cause a severe wrist strain or even fracture.
The result can be a serious injury if not treated properly. Your wrist may heal improperly, which could lead to chronic pain later in life.
Like wrist injuries, elbow injuries can also arise from a fall on icy pavement. When you extend your arms to brace your fall, not only do your wrists take the impact but your elbows do as well. Your elbow could become dislocated if the impact is so significant that it pops your bone out of position. Otherwise, a more potentially severe injury could be an elbow fracture. This can lead to long-term pain if not treated properly.
Falls on slippery, icy pavement can also cause ankle injuries. When you struggle to recover your balance after slipping on ice, you can easily roll and twist your ankle. This may end up being a muscle injury whereby the tendon has been strained. Otherwise, a certain type of fracture in the ankle bone can result if more impact has been felt. This type of fracture can be caused not only by a fall on iced-over sidewalks but also due to winter sports injuries.
Slips and falls on icy roads and sidewalks can result in many different types of broken bones, fractures and injuries. But one of the more severe injuries occurs when a fall is so hard and sudden that it fractures the hip bone. This can be a very difficult injury to repair, and it can also cause chronic, long-term pain. This injury especially affects seniors who are predisposed to osteoporosis or previous hip injuries. This injury should certainly be treated as an emergency by a physician.
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