BreakPoint Prepares for a Long Cold Winter
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute,
Injury Prevention Program
Having fun in the
snow is better than sitting indoors and it also helps make the
winter seem to go by faster. The large amounts of snow we have
received means that there will be many days to enjoy all of the
activities winter has to offer. This issue of BreakPoint will
cover the popular winter sports such as sledding,
skiing/snowboarding, ice skating, and snowmobiling. As with any
sport, preparation and common sense will help promote fun and
Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock
Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at
(708) 327-2455 with any comments or questions.
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Sledding is not Just Child's Play
There are few
things that bring a smile to a child's face like that of
sledding. Sitting on their sled, a smile from ear to ear as they
move smoothly and quickly down the hill with giggles and
laughter. Sledding can be a fun activity for children if done
properly. Fifteen percent of serious head injuries that occur
among children playing winter sports are related to inner tubes,
sleds, toboggans or snow disks. Other less serious injuries
including fractures are even more common.
is extremely hard work; especially if you lift large loads and
throw the snow some distance away from your body. You should not
shovel snow unless you are in good physical condition. Cold
weather itself, without any physical exertion, puts an extra
strain on your heart. Even the use of a snowblower can be
Choosing a safe sled should include looking for the following
- Secure handholds and easy steering
- Bumper or guard over the metal front bar
- No split or splintered wood or bent metal parts
- Sled runners that curve around to the top and connect with
the side rails
- Sharp runners that are free of rust
For safety when sledding follow these simple rules:
- Inspect the area where you will be sledding. Remove any
debris from the slope, and note the locations of any bumps.
- Teach children not to roughhouse, push or shove others.
- Before starting down a slope, make sure the person
sledding ahead of you are clear from your path to avoid any
crashes. When you reach the bottom of the hill, quickly move
out of the way
- Sled only in designated areas free of fixed objects such
as trees, posts or fences.
- Parents or a responsible adult must supervise children.
- Do not sled on slopes that end in a street, drop off,
parking lot or water.
- Sledders should wear a helmet when sledding.
- Wear layers of clothing to protect from injury and the
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Snowmobiles-High Speed Danger Zone
can be a fun and important mode of transportation especially
in rural areas. Snowmobiling is also a fun winter sport.
However, snowmobiles are powerful machines with the potential
to injure and kill, and they do. Some snowmobiles can reach
speeds of 90mph.
The major risk
factors for injury when riding snowmobiles are careless
snowmobile operation, use of alcohol, excessive speed and
suboptimal lighting, drowning and lack of protection of head
and limbs. Most common injuries are caused from falls off the
machine and collisions.
As snowmobiling grows in popularity, it is important to
keep these safety factors in mind when riding:
- Check fluid levels and oil levels. Keep in mind your
- Make sure the headlights and taillights work.
- Test the emergency stop switch.
- Move the throttle to make sure it is not frozen in the
"on" position, and check the steering system to
make sure it moves freely.
- Dress appropriately for winter. Wear a certified helmet
with face protection at all times. Scarves are not
recommended because they may get caught in the machinery.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to
return. Never sled alone.
Once you start to ride, remember these safety rules:
- Ride sober-A high percentage of snowmobile fatalities
and injuries are the direct result of someone's
irresponsible use of alcohol. Do not drink and drive. Do
not let anyone in the group drink and drive. Individuals
suspected of operating snowmobiles while under the
influence of alcohol or drugs are required to undergo
chemical testing. The law is similar to those covering
automobile and watercraft operation. An individual
convicted of operating a snowmobile while under the
influence can face a jail term, fine and suspension of his
or her driving privileges.
- Ride to the right even on straightaways.
- Be prepared for changing weather. Know the weather
forecast and call ahead to check on the conditions of the
trails that you will be traveling.
- Ride at reasonable speed. If you cannot control your
sled safely at the speed that you are traveling in the
current conditions- you are speeding.
- Use of hand signals - the consistent use of a simple set
of standardized hand signals on the trails keeps movement
orderly and predictable.
- Ride defensively - you and your group can do everything
right, and still encounter a sledder who is doing
everything wrong. Always expect the unexpected from the
other snowmobile coming toward you.
- Be careful on ice - Do not travel on lakes or rivers
without knowing the ice conditions. To be safe, there
should be 8 inches of clear ice. It is best however, to
avoid snowmobiling on waterways all together. If you
travel onto ice that breaks, reach forward to the edge of
the ice and pull yourself forward. Do not stand; roll
yourself to firm ground.
- Do not stop the snowmobile when it is pointing uphill
because it may become stuck.
- Be cautious going downhill. Keep the snowmobile under
control and be prepared to stop.
- Snowmobiles are not built to carry passengers. If you do
have a passenger, both persons' feet should be kept on the
runningboard. The person should lean with you when you
- Travel on groomed trails when possible. Do not travel on
unfamiliar ground and carry a flashlight or fares for
- Day or night be alert for hidden wires.
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Beware of Dangers on the Slopes
snowboarding are two of the area's most popular winter
sports. Both require a high level of skill and agility.
Skiing and snowboarding carry a high risk of injury,
especially for those who are not in good shape or don't take
time to learn about proper techniques and equipment. Whether
you ski or snowboard, injuries are likely to occur if you
are over tired.
increase in the popularity of snowboarding comes the
increased risk of serious injury. Orthopedic injuries are
the most common injuries for skiers and snowboarders. Skiing
and snowboarding injuries occur at a similar rate. of 3-4
injuries per thousand exposure days. However, the rate of
fractures is markedly higher in snowboarders at 38 percent
compared to 15 percent (11th International Congress of Ski
Trauma and Skiing Safety. April 1995). There is also a risk
of abdominal injuries when snowboarding. When the
snowboarders fall, many times the board will bounce up and
hit the rider in the abdomen causing internal injuries.
Following these safety tips will help to increase the fun
on the slopes and decrease the rate of injuries.
- Prepare for tackling the slopes- Aerobic exercises are
recommended for getting in shape prior to and during the
ski season. If you are in good overall condition you
will not fatigue as quickly and will be less at risk for
- Stretching exercises strengthen the thighs,
hamstrings, calves, hip and groin. - Hold each stretch
for 30 seconds and do not bounce while stretching.
- For beginners- take a few lessons from a ski or
snowboard instructor to learn proper techniques and
minimize injury. Learn how to properly fit boots and
bindings and the proper way to break a fall.
- Check all ski or snowboard equipment, especially
bindings. Boots and their bindings should fit snugly and
securely to protect the ankle from moving inside the
- Dress properly for the winter weather. Change clothing
that has become wet.
- Make sure your head and face are protected by wearing
helmets and goggles.
When on the slopes observe these rules of safety:
- Never ski alone.
- Give skiers or snowboarders below you the right of
- Stop on the side of the run and not in the middle.
Stay out of the way of others coming down behind you.
- Wear brightly colored clothing so other skiers can
spot you easily.
- Before passing another skier or snowboarders, shout,
"On your left" or "On your right".
- Only ski or snowboard on an approved course. These
trails are specially groomed for the sport.
- On a lift or tow, carry your poles by the shafts.
- If you fall getting off a lift or tow, get out of the
way of other skiers exiting behind you as soon as
- When getting off a tow, let go of the T-bar gently so
it does not swing back and hit another skier.
- Snowboarders are encouraged to wear wrist supports,
helmets and goggles
- Ski or snowboard responsibly. Do not play games or
roughhouse on the slopes.
- Do not drink and ski or snowboard. Save the alcohol
for the end of the day's activities when you are safely
in the lodge and have no plans to drive home.
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Don't Be on Thin Ice this Winter
skaters make ice skating look simple, gliding along the
ice so gracefully. Anyone who has worn a pair of ice
skates knows it is not as simple as it looks. Just staying
upright takes work and practice. Once you are able to
skate, moving along the ice and the chill of winter air
create an invigorating feeling. Whether you plan to skate
in a rink or on a frozen lake or pond there are several
steps you should take to stay safe. Check the skates you
will be using make sure they fit well. Ice skates that are
too loose can make it difficult to keep your balance and
skates that are too tight can interfere with circulation.
Make sure the blades are clean and sharpened. If you plan
to ice skate on a lake or a pond, there are additional
- Don't skate unless the ice has a uniform thickness
of at lease 4 inches. If you are unsure of the ice do
- Don't skate alone.
- Don't try to rescue someone who has fallen through
thin ice-call 911.
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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention
- National Poison Prevention Week (3/21-27)
- Children and Healthcare Week (3/14-20)
- Red Cross Month
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(LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.
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