How to Prevent Injury This Winter

Snow and winter go hand-in-hand. But as soon as the white stuff starts to pile up on the ground, people start to show up at doctor's offices or emergency rooms with injuries that are often preventable. From slipping on the ice while grabbing the mail, to falling on the slopes while speeding to the bottom, Intermountain Medical Center's emergency department sees it all.
Dr. David Morris, a surgeon and medical director for acute care surgery, research and trauma outreach at Intermountain Medical Center, a Level 1 Trauma Center, talks about some of the common injuries seen this time of year and the little things that can be done to prevent you from ending up in the emergency room and putting the kibosh on your winter activities.
Preventing falls in icy conditions:
  • Be aware of your surroundings and conditions
  • Avoid walking in poor light whenever able
  • Use ice melt, salt, or sand to help break up ice
  • If travel on foot is necessary, consider using anti-slip footwear (available at many home/hardware/outdoor stores) and using a walking stick for added balance
  • Avoid carrying heavy leads in your arms, which can impair balance
  • People over age 65 or who are taking blood thinners are at particularly high risk of bad outcomes from falls.
Winter driving tips:
  • Always wear a seat belt
  • Allow extra time for all travel
  • Increase following distance
  • Use 4-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and/or snow tires whenever possible
  • Try to get a sense of road conditions in low-traffic areas. This will help you judge what speed is safe
  • You may be a terrific driver in snowy conditions. As you drive, assume that every other driver is not as proficient as you are. Drive defensively.
  • If you warm up your car prior to driving, never idle inside a closed garage. Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can build up inside a garage, even with the door open.
Sledding tips:
  • Wear a helmet - they are warmer and safer than regular hats.
  • Choose your hill wisely - roads, trees, fences, walls at the bottom of the hill are potentially lethal obstacles
  • Be sure you can steer or bail out if needed
  • Don't slide head first. Tubing is especially dangerous because of rotation during the slide that is outside the rider's control.
  • Don't overload the sled or tube and don't mix adults and children. If thrown, a larger rider may crush a smaller rider even in otherwise unremarkable spills.
Ski/Snowboard tips:
  • Wear a helmet
  • Ski/Ride in control
  • Don't ski/ride above your skill level
  • Get in shape first - being tired can contribute to bad decision-making and errors in technique
  • Make sure your equipment is in working order

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