A Guide to Winter Sports & Common Associated Injuries

Posted on January 02, 2020

Category: Physical Injury

Short days. Long nights. Cold winds. Frigid temperatures. Ah, yes, winter has arrived. And with winter comes ice, snow and injuries. Winter sports are a great way to get outdoors and stay active during the winter months. What’s better than breathing fresh winter air and feeling the sunshine after experiencing the dreaded cabin fever? Exercise is one of the best ways to fight the winter blues.

But sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad. More than 220,000 people were treated at hospitals, doctors’ offices and emergency rooms for injuries related to winter sports in 2017, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Know the facts this season and learn about common associated winter sports injuries.

Injury Proneness

Despite the fast, precise actions of some winter sports, old man winter has us believe that we’re meant to move slowly and feebly during the wintertime. And there is some truth to that. Winter does makes us more prone to injury. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, United States’ winters are deadlier than our summers.


The probability of sustaining an injury is higher in the cold weather due to many different factors, but they primarily revolve around the cold weather itself. Our body’s natural shiver response from low blood circulation increases the risk of injury. When our body temperature drops, our muscles naturally stiffen. It’s always encouraged to warm up before physical activity—especially in the wintertime. Stretches and warm-ups raise your body temperature, which accelerates the cardiovascular system and increases the blood flow to your muscles. It also gives your heart and your blood vessels a chance to ease into cold-weather exercise.


Ice and snow. They’re fast, they’re fun and they’re really hard to walk on. Winter conditions make it harder to keep your balance with uneven icy and snow-packed sidewalks and streets. Because of the short daylight we get during the winter, low visibility also is a factor of which to be aware. Wearing appropriate shoes or boots can help you combat winter conditions and keep yourself safe.



We often hear that we can feel the winter “in our bones.” Like mentioned before, as temperatures drop, our bones and joints stiffen. Joint and bone pain tend to increase the colder it gets, making it easier for fractures to occur.

A bone fracture is the medical term for a broken bone. During winter conditions, you’re twice as likely to break a bone than in normal conditions. Some hospitals report as much as a 500 percent increase in emergency room visits during the winter. Wrist and ankle fractures are the most common during the wintertime. This often occurs when we use our feet and hands to try to break a fall. Common seasonal sports that witness these types of injuries include ice skating, sledding and skiing. Bone fractures can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months to heal, so take precautions when partaking in risky winter activities.



Sprains arise when a ligament is overextended or torn. Fractures and sprains have similar symptoms, and it’s difficult to determine which injury took place. Both can exhibit throbbing pain, swelling, bruising and the difficulty to bear weight.

Joint pain increases as temperatures drop. A good way to prevent injury and ease pressure on your joints is to stretch and massage your muscles. Most mild sprains require nothing more than ice, short immobility and rest. Having a healthy diet also leads to your body recovering from injury faster. If you encounter a serious winter sports injury and the ligament has ruptured, you will most likely need to take anti-inflammatory medication to relieve pain and symptoms.



Intense winter sports can lead to head injury and concussion. An estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. Concussion occurs after an impact to your head or a whiplash injury that causes your head and, subsequentially, your brain to shake violently. This could happen while sledding down a hill, getting checked while playing hockey or even after hitting your head following a slip on the ice. Symptoms are easily identifiable, but if you have any doubts about concussion, you should seek medical treatment immediately. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Vomiting


Depending on the severity of the concussion, there are different ways to treat the injury. Repeated head injuries are dangerous and increase the chances of permanent brain damage. Be sure to wear proper equipment while dealing with intense winter activities. Helmets should be fitted properly and be worn at all times while partaking in these activities.



Just like the ground freezing during the winter or a bottle full of water freezing in your garage, our skin can freeze too. Frostbite occurs when exposed skin and underlying tissues freeze. It typically occurs with prolonged periods of outdoor exposure in high winds and frigid temperatures. There are three degrees of frostbite, with different severity, outcomes and treatments. Because fingers and toes are the furthest body parts away from your body’s core, they typically are the first to decrease in blood flow and succumb to frostbite.

Wearing layered clothes that keep you dry is the best advice. Be sure not to be idle when outside in freezing temperatures. Get your blood flowing!

Protective Equipment

When it comes to activities outside during the winter, you’ll want to layer as much as possible. Having multiple layers of clothes can help you retain your body heat while protecting you from cold, wind and snow.

One of the easiest and most effective precautions you can take is by wearing proper protective equipment. Risky sports like hockey, skiing and snowboarding necessitate helmet-wearing, because of the speed and force at which these sports are played. Proper boot fitting while skiing and snowboarding and proper skate fitting while ice skating will make sure your ankles are protected while giving you full control of the equipment.

Remember to use caution when partaking in winter sports. Be aware of these increased risks and enjoy all the fun that winter can offer. If you succumb to a winter injury, be sure to visit Sioux Falls Specialty Hospital Urgent Care.