How to Avoid Winter Sports Injuries
It’s not hard to be impressed with the skills of the Winter Olympic athletes. If you’ve been inspired to get out and try some winter sports yourself, keep in mind that sometimes the only thing standing between you and a foot or ankle injury is proper footwear.
Start with the right fit in the footwear for your sport. Ski boots, snowboard boots, and ice skates should fit snugly but not too tightly, say orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists. When boots and skates are too loose, you run the risk of instability injuries, which could lead to a sprain or fracture. If footwear is too tight, you can develop blisters or frostbite from pressure inside the boot or skate.
What’s inside your footwear is also important. Look for non-cotton socks that will keep perspiration away from your feet so they stay dry.
“Today’s boots are designed to be warmer, so you don’t need multiple layers of socks to insulate your feet,” says Scott A. Nemec, DO. “One set of thin acrylic or merino wool socks should be all you need. In addition, wearing just one pair of socks will reduce the risk of blistering that can come with multiple pairs.”
When you’re outdoors, make sure your socks stay warm and dry. Frostbite is a serious condition that can develop when your socks are wet and the temperature falls below freezing. If you begin to feel burning or numbness in your toes, get indoors quickly.
Other ways to avoid injury include stretching and maintaining your equipment. “You want to be limber before you go out so you can absorb falls better,” advises Nemec. “And if you’re skiing or snowboarding, make sure the bindings on your equipment release the way they’re supposed to. You should also wear appropriate headgear for your outdoor sport.”
Finally, even with the right footwear and proper fit, injuries can happen. Foot or ankle injuries should be evaluated by your primary care doctor or an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist sooner rather than later. “Many long-term problems can be avoided if patients are treated quickly after an injury,” says Nemec. “Sometimes even mild ankle sprains can require rehab to fully recover.”
To learn more about foot and ankle care, visit FootCareMD, the patient education website of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS). The site features articles on foot and ankle conditions and treatments, including an article on How to Care for a Sprained Ankle.