Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Preventing Injury in the Winter Months

By: Christopher Carter, MD with Brookwood Care Network

Many of us enjoy winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, ice-skating and hockey. These sports are thrilling and fun for all ages, but high speeds and slippery surfaces can lead to serious injuries, including concussions. The following are some injury prevention tips to keep you safe while having fun in the cold.

1. Always wear a properly fitted helmet and replace it after a serious fall. When wearing a hat or cap to keep your head warm, make sure your helmet still fits securely on your head. It's also very important to replace your helmet after a serious crash. Some helmets are built to only withstand a single impact, while others can withstand more than one — depending on the severity. The snow may seem soft, but trees, ice, and other people aren't.

2. Have fun, but know your limitations. I will never forget my first time skiing. I thought I was athletic enough to hit the slopes without any formal training. Needless to say, I spent the majority of the day on my back. It was a very humbling, cold, and wet experience. Take it from me - if it's your first time on the slopes, take lessons from an expert. Learn the fundamentals, start slowly, and be patient. Know your limitations and make sure children do as well. Young children should never play on snow or ice without close supervision.

3. Be familiar with your surroundings and stay alert.

• Be sure to scope out the trail, sledding hill, or skating rink before you take off at full speed.

• Be aware of blind spots, turns, and sudden drops or knolls.

• Try to avoid crowded areas, as you could also be injured when someone else does something irresponsible.

• Try to stay near the center of the trail or hill to avoid obstacles.

• Never ski or sled through, or close to trees.

• Stay alert and never wear headphones so you can hear what's going on around you.

4. Be aware of the warning signs of concussion. If you or someone you are with does take a hard spill, be sure you recognize the warning signs of a traumatic brain injury. Signs and symptoms of a mild brain injury, or concussion, can show up right after the injury, or they may not appear until days or even weeks afterward. Concussion symptoms can include:

• Headaches

• Weakness

• Numbness

• Decreased coordination or balance

• Confusion

• Slurred speech

• Nausea

• Vomiting

Sometimes people complain of “just not feeling like themselves.” If you or a loved one notices any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention right away. And if the person loses consciousness, call 911 or seek emergency medical help as soon as possible. Finally, if you have a concussion, give yourself time to heal. Experiencing a second injury before the first one heals could have long-term consequences.

Enjoy yourselves this winter, but make sure to stay safe. If you or someone you know suffers a concussion, or has an injury whether winter-related or not, Dr. Carter can be reached at 205-352-1175.

Christopher Carter, MD practices family medicine with an emphasis on sports medicine and non-surgical orthopedics with the Brookwood Care Network.

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