“Just be cautious. There’s no one tip to keep you 100 percent safe, but there are many that can minimize the risks. With a little precaution and planning, you can keep yourself and your family free from injury during winter activities.”
Even though snow isn’t likely in the Rio Grande Valley, many fans of winter sports will be traveling during upcoming months to participate in activities that include skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowmobiling, and ice skating.
But, with winter activities comes some cautionary advice. Especially for those who don’t regularly have access to cold-weather sports.
“Winter sports and activities are a great way to remain active during the colder months,” says Dr. Jeannie Harden, Medical Director of Weslaco Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. But ice and snow can create hazardous conditions that can lead to falls, and falls are the leading cause of brain injuries.”
Harden explains that your brain is the consistency of gelatin. It’s cushioned by fluid inside your skull. When you suffer a blow or jolt to the head, it can forcibly slide your brain back and forth, which can stretch and damage the brain cells and create chemical changes. It also can lead to bleeding in or around the brain, which can cause symptoms such as drowsiness, confusion, blurry vision, headaches, nausea, dizziness, or difficulty in concentrating and remembering things.
Brain injuries can affect individuals not only physically, but emotionally and behaviorally as
well. In the United States, more than 5 million people live with disabilities caused by brain injuries.
“Although the danger of a head injury is real with winter sports, don’t let it stop you from enjoying your activity,” Harden says. “Just be cautious. There’s no one tip to keep you 100 percent safe, but there are many that can minimize the risks. With a little precaution and planning, you can keep yourself and your family free from injury during winter activities.”
Harden suggests the following when participating in winter sports:
- Know your limitations, especially if you’re new to a sport or don’t participate in it regularly. Take a lesson from a trained professional if you’re just starting out. And consider a refresher lesson if it’s been a while since you’ve participated in that activity or if you want to better your skills.
- If skiing or snowboarding, go on the slope that’s appropriate to your skill level. Novices should always go on beginner slopes.
- Wear a helmet. Choose the right helmet for the right activity and make sure it fits properly.
- Pay attention to the ground surfaces and conditions. Take note of any icy patches, drops, uneven terrain and turns.
- When outdoors, stay in well-marked and maintained areas. Don’t go off established paths.
- Wear proper equipment for the sport or activity you’re participating in, especially shoes or boots.
- Stay alert and don’t wear headphones.
- If skiing, snowboarding or sledding, try to stay in the middle of the trail and away from trees.
Jeannie Harden, FAAPMR
Medical Director at Weslaco Regional Rehabilitation Hospital