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Dealing with a Winter Sports Injury? Prevention & Rehabilitation Can Help

Posted Jan 30th, 2023

Dealing with a Winter Sports Injury? Prevention & Rehabilitation Can Help

Being physically active throughout the winter season can positively influence our physical and mental health. That said, a past or new winter sports injury can leave you sidelined. Today, our Stittsville physiotherapists discuss rehabilitation and physiotherapy options to treat and prevent these injuries. 

Common Winter Sports Injuries

Skiers and snowboarders from far and wide relish hitting the slopes with fresh snow on the ground. Others spend their time taking the kids to popular local hills for some sledding, or lacing up their skates to take a few laps around the rink. 

Whatever your preference for winter sports, preventing slips, trips, falls and even wipeouts from sidelining you for the season due to muscle strains or bruising should be top priority. Many will even end up visiting the hospital. 

Specifically, playing winter sports increases the risk of certain injuries, including:

  • Knee strains and meniscus injuries
  • Shoulder dislocations and/or rotator cuff injuries
  • Anterior and Posterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL/OCL) Injuries
  • Concussions and various head injuries 

Dislocated shoulders often occur after people fall onto ice or hard snow. As shoulders are very mobile joints, they are more likely to slip out of place than some other joints. A dislocated shoulder can also lead to associated injuries in the ligaments and muscles of the upper body. 

Depending on the nature and severity of the injury, these individuals or athletes may require months of recovery and rehabilitation to restore the strength in their muscles, along with their mobility, balance and confidence. Fortunately, sports injury rehab and physiotherapy can help these recovery efforts. 

Skiers and ice hockey players have the highest risk of suffering from dislocated shoulders. While painful in and of itself, this injury can also lead to frozen shoulder. And, if an individual uses their arms to break their fall, this may cause an elbow dislocation injury. 

Post-Treatment Rehabilitation for Athletic Injuries 

Once a doctor has assessed your injury and restored your shoulder to its normal position, you'll need to practice strengthening it with the goal of returning to full mobility and movement. 

At our Stittsville physiotherapy center, our physiotherapists can create a treatment plan to prevent, manage and treat acute and chronic sports injuries in athletes at all levels, from weekend warriors to World Class and Olympic athletes. 

Specifically, we can address acute and chronic sports injuries by:

  • Controlling pain and swelling caused by acute injuries 
  • Designing sport-specific exercise treatment programs designed to help you regain mobility and strength
  • Analyzing risk factors and treating chronic conditions 

Depending on your specific needs and circumstances, treatment techniques may include:

  • Manual therapy for joint stiffness or restrictions 
  • Active exercises to restore strength, balance, flexibility and endurance 
  • Stabilization with tape or braces
  • Myofascial release techniques for tight, short muscles and soft tissue 
  • Acupuncture treatment to manage pain and swelling 
  • Over-the-counter braces for various conditions or injuries such as ankle sprains, patella-femoral pain and carpal tunnel 

How to Prevent Winter Sports Injuries

Preventive physiotherapy can help athletes at all levels - and even those who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle - stay on track and prevent injuries in the first place. Pre and post-season physiotherapy assessment involve taking a comprehensive look at muscle balance to ensure your body working at its best. 

Here are some specific tips you might consider adding to your prevention routine:

Warm Up

Doing some warmup exercises before you hit the rink, hill or slopes is essential to preventing winter sports injuries. Long-term, winter athletes should see our physiotherapists for an injury risk assessment as part of pre-season preparation. 

A warmup routine should include:

  • Twisting your upper body 
  • Stretching your arms, back and legs
  • Circling your arms 
  • Exercises to energize leg muscles, such as on-the-spot running or squats 
  • Wrist and ankle rotations '

Remember to do these exercises once you've got your gear on, then again once you're about to head out onto the slopes or rink, since your muscles will cool down while you wait in line in the arena for the ski lift. 

Have the Right Gear

Make sure you've got the right sports and safety gear specific to your chosen activity, and wear thin, insulating layers underneath your coat. 

Wear a Properly Sized Helmet 

Brain injuries can happen in a second and dramatically impact your life, resulting in permanent disability - some can even be life-threatening. No matter your age or athletic ability, it's important for everyone (and every member of your family) to be fitted for a helmet and to wear it each time you engage in your chosen activity. 

Learn to Fall 

Whether we're on the hills, slopes or a backyard rink, falls are inevitable. But how we fall can mean the difference between enduring a winter sports injury such as a sprained muscle or fractured bone and being able to exercise again in the next few days. If you're unable to prevent a fall, our advice is to not fight it and instead try to land on your bottom or on your side and roll.  

Are you wondering how you can prevent winter sports injuries by integrating physical therapy into your routine? 

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