Winter Injury Safety: It’s Not Just About Skiing and Snowboarding

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles injury prevention experts provide
tips for keeping your child safe this season no matter where you live

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Whether or not the groundhog sees its shadow, for many kids around the
country February is winter’s last hurrah, a final chance to break out
the skis and sleds. But every year, thousands of children in the U.S.
are injured in winter-related activities, regardless of whether they
live in warm or cold climates.


Tracy
Zaslow, M.D
., director of the Children’s
Orthopaedic Center
Sports
Concussion Clinic
at Children’s
Hospital Los Angeles
(CHLA), notes that skiing, snowboarding and
sledding do cause many of the pediatric injuries she sees during the
season. Children are at higher risk than adults for skiing and
snowboarding injuries, with males most at risk for severe injuries to
the head and neck. Nearly half of injuries occur with novice beginner
skiers and snowboarders, Dr. Zaslow says, in part because they are less
likely to have mastered the skill sets needed to avoid obstacles and
fall down safely.

“Because of the high speeds that are traveled, it can go from a mild
injury – bruises and sprains — to severe fractures that require surgery
or head injuries that lead to bleeding in the brain,” says Dr. Zaslow.

However, some less-than-traditional winter sports can lead to serious
injuries too, especially in warmer climates or coastal states.

“One thing interesting about Southern California, for example, is that
the surf is usually bigger around winter time,” says J.
Lee Pace, M.D
., director of CHLA’s Sports
Medicine Program
 at the Children’s
Orthopaedic Center
, “So you tend to see more surfing injuries, from
ankle or knee sprains to broken bones to head injuries.”

Warmer winters also tend to foster overuse injuries as kids continue to
play the same summer and fall sports in the offseason. According to the
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, overuse injuries in children
are on the rise in recent years, especially those related to athletics.
These occur when parts of the body don’t have proper time to heal
between use, and young growing athletes could suffer injuries that
impair growth or lead to long-term health problems.

“As much as we want to go out and enjoy these fun winter activities, we
want to think about safety as well,” says Dr. Zaslow.

Ways to Protect Kids Against Injuries This Winter

Skiing, Snowboarding and Sledding

1. Wear a helmet: A
snugly-fitted helmet on your child’s head can significantly reduce risk
of skull fractures and bleeding in the brain, and also keeps your
child’s head warm. However, Zaslow warns, helmets do not prevent
concussions.

2. Wear wrist guards: Many of us
instinctively put our hands out to catch ourselves when we fall, which
is why wrist injuries are common among snowboarders. Wrist guards can
reduce risk of wrist fractures and sprains; these days they are often
built into snowboarding gloves.

3. Watch those bindings:
Automatic-release bindings on skis need to be adjusted to your child’s
weight and height. Too loose, and they won’t provide stability. Too
tight, and they may not release from ski boots when needed, causing legs
to twist improperly.

Preventing Other Types of Winter Injuries

1. UV protection: Even when
it’s cool or cloudy outside, ultraviolet rays from the sun can still
cause eye and skin damage (snow reflection and higher altitudes make UV
light even more dangerous). Sunglasses, goggles and sunscreen (SPF 30 or
higher) are a must.

2. Cross-train in the offseason: “Exercising
different muscle groups, training and participating in multiple sports
are absolutely advocated by every sports organization as an excellent
injury prevention mechanism as well as performance enhancer,” says Dr.
Zaslow. Studies have shown that playing different sports develops
different skill sets, allows other muscle groups to rest and avoid
injuries, and help kids perform better in the sports they’re most
passionate about.

Finally, Watch Your Head

CHLA doctors say the one type of injury they see all year, regardless of
season, is concussion. “People often think concussions are really
exclusive to football and other high contact sports,” says Dr. Zaslow,
“but we see them from all different sports, including surfing, skiing,
snowboarding. And so really one of the best ways to prevent a serious
concussion is to know your surroundings.”

She says parents should stress to kids the importance of staying alert.
On the slopes, that means knowing who is skiing above and below you,
where out-of-bounds areas are, and keeping a watch for obstacles like
rocks and trees. On the surf, that means recognizing shallow shoals and
understanding how big a wave you can handle. And on the playing field,
that means knowing when your body needs a rest by keeping track, for
example, of the number of pitches thrown, balls kicked or laps swum.

About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s
hospital in California and among the top 10 in the nation for clinical
excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World
Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research
Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research
facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of
America’s premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation with the
Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California since
1932. For more information, visit CHLA.org.
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Contacts

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Owen Lei, 323-361-8433
olei@chla.usc.edu