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Unlocking the Secrets to Injury Prevention and Optimal Performance in High-Stakes Winter Sports

Winter is a season filled with excitement and opportunities for outdoor activities, including winter sports. Whether you enjoy skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, or any other winter sport, it's important to prioritize your orthopedic health and safety. Here are some ways for you and your family to enjoy the winter weather safely and without the stress of possible orthopedic injuries:

How can I warm up and train properly?

Before engaging in any winter sport, it's crucial to warm up your muscles and joints. Cold temperatures can make your muscles stiff and increase the risk of injury. Take a few minutes to stretch and perform some light exercises to prepare your body for the physical demands of the sport.

Cross-training benefits all ages and is strongly recommended for athletes or weekend warriors participating in winter activities as well. As an example, a hockey player should do more than just skate and play hockey; similarly, a skier should do more than race downhill. Instead, athletes should incorporate activities outside of their primary discipline into their training.

What protection do it need to reduce injury?

Investing in high-quality protective gear is essential for preventing orthopedic injuries during winter sports. The single most effective way to reduce major injury is to always wear a proper-fitting helmet, especially in sports that involve speed and/or height such as snowboarding and skiing. 

In cold conditions, it is important to wear goggles, wrist guards, knee pads, and appropriate footwear. Boots, skis, and snowboards vary in length, width, and camber, affecting their feel on the snow. These differences influence how they respond when an athlete turns or lands a jump.

Having the appropriate equipment can not only significantly reduce the impact of falls and collisions - protecting your head, eyes, wrists, knees, and ankles - but can also keep your body temperature warm and regulated.

Is pushing the limit worth the risk?

It's important to know your skill level and not push yourself beyond your capabilities. While some may feel that the 'limit does not exist', trying advanced tricks or slopes that are too challenging can lead to accidents and injuries. When stepping outside of your comfort zone, make sure you do so in smart manners, such as starting with easier trails or slopes and gradually progressing as you gain more experience and confidence. 

Proper technique is also essential for preventing orthopedic injuries during winter sports. Consider taking lessons or seeking guidance from experienced instructors to learn the correct techniques for your chosen sport. Learning how to bail out of a movement, fall safely, and control your movements can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.

Why do I still have to drink water in cold weather?

Hydration is often overlooked during winter sports due to the misconception that only hot weather leads to dehydration. However, it is important to note that proper hydration is crucial for maintaining a healthy musculoskeletal system as water helps to flush out toxins in the body, causing inflammation and pain, and dehydration may also result in a lack of joint lubrication, leading to joint pain.

It can be easy to overlook how much an athlete perspires when covered in layers of clothing, making it difficult to tell how much energy is being used. By staying properly hydrated and drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your winter sports activities, you can help support the health and function of your body.

Why should I research the weather before my trip?

Winter weather can be unpredictable, so staying informed about the current conditions is crucial before heading out. Check the weather forecast and be aware of any warnings or advisories. For example, an icy or hard-packed area of snow will handle very differently compared to fresh powdery snow from the evening before. 

Cold temperatures affect the elasticity of our muscles and joints. The colder the tissues are, the less pliable and slower they are to respond to input from the brain. If the muscles cannot react in time to respond to the environment, brace for a fall, etc., it could lead to potential injury. Avoid participating in winter sports during severe weather conditions such as heavy snowfall, strong winds, or extreme cold.

Why do I need to take rest days?

Winter sports can be physically demanding, so it's important to listen to your body and take breaks when needed. Injuries also frequently occur during an athlete’s last run of the day when they're wanting to give it everything they have left. However, after competing all day, reaction time, strength, endurance, and physical abilities may be diminished due to the long hours of competition, leading to an increased risk of injury. Pushing yourself too hard without giving your body time to rest and recover can increase the risk of orthopedic injuries. Pay attention to any signs of fatigue or pain and take breaks accordingly.

By following these tips, you can enjoy your winter sports activities while minimizing the risk of orthopedic injuries. Remember, safety should always be a priority, so don't hesitate to seek medical attention if you experience any pain or discomfort.

Before hitting the slopes or lacing up your skates:

Download the HURT! App, powered by OrthoCarolina, for quick access to orthopedic specialists in the case of bumps, bruises, breaks, and sprains. After a long weekend of trying a new sport with some new aches, soreness, and pain -- the HURT! app is a great resource for identifying what symptoms need escalated next steps.

Free peace of mind in your pocket? Yes, please!

Thank you to Travis Ely, PA from OrthoCarolina's Concord location for providing this blog information! 

This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. If you are seeking specific orthopedic advice or assistance, please consult with your OrthoCarolina physician or locate one in your area through OrthoCarolina’s website at

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