The significant snowfall we experienced a few weeks ago, took many of us off guard. Many of our patients talked to us about the challenges they experienced. Between the warm ground temperatures and the not quite freezing air temps, the snow was heavy, wet and generally difficult to move. This was as true for those that used snow-blowers as those that were shoveling the snow.
While we tend to believe that snow-blowers make managing snowfall easier, every year thousands of people experience injuries while using snow-blowers. Here are a few important safety tips to remember and share with the people you most care about..
Tip 1: When snow is thick or heavy and wet (and especially when the snow-blower gets clogged), the physical strain on your body can be as significant as if you were using a snow shovel. Remember to keep your body close to the machine to avoid stretching forward to push. Wear shoes that give you traction. Avoid hats and scarfs that limit your vision. Dress in layers but be careful to avoid wearing loose fitting clothing that can get caught in the snow-blower.
Tip 2: Individuals who try and remove clogs without turning off the snow-blower can experience severe hand injuries. Always turn off the mower and use a stick or a broom handle to remove the clog. Even when the blower is off there can still be compression in the engine causing the blades to move when the clog is out.
Tip 3: Whenever possible don’t wait till the snow stops to use the snow-blower. Clearing the snow at intervals is generally easier and helps you to pace yourself. Though the machine is designed to cut through a lot of snow, the strain on your body is increased when you are working with volume.
Tip 4: Snow-blowers are loud and its always a good idea to wear hearing protection when you’re operating loud machinery. We recommend using over-the-ear protection to maximize your safety and keep your ears warm.
Tip 5: If you are using an electric powered snow-blower with extension cords, work away from the cord and be very careful. Always use extension cords intended for outside use and equipped with a ground prong. If you are using a gas-powered snow-blower, turn it off and let it cool before adding more fuel. Gasoline can ignite on hot engine parts.
Tip 6: Given how hot a snow-blower’s engine can get, give it a chance to cool off before putting it away when you are done.
Even though the risks are different than using a snow shovel, using a snow-blower is still a physically demanding task. Make sure you warm up your muscles before getting started, stay hydrated, and if you experience any physical pain (during or after the activity) seek out medical assistance.
It’s that time of year; the kids are back in school, the leaves are just beginning to change colors, and football season has begun. Understanding how precious our kids are to all of us, we thought we’d use this month’s newsletter to share some insight on the more common injuries that football players can sustain, what parents (and coaches) should watch for, and ways to potentially avoid injuries.
Knee injuries, involving the ligaments of the knee are all susceptible to injury in football, often caused by hits from other players. Some players also tear the meniscus, when they plant a foot to rotate their body and the knee twists.
Pivoting movements and changes in direction, make players susceptible to soft tissue damage in the ankle. Shoulder injuries often result from direct hits to the shoulder, causing the joint to dislocate or separate. And, as we now better understand, concussions and brain injury, can result from hard hits leading to even more serious consequences, especially when they are not carefully handled by the coach and parents.
The risk inherent to this highly physical game are often countered, however, by the values that the sport can instill in a young person. A good work ethic, perseverance, humility, respect and cooperation are just some of the values that a young athlete can carry into adulthood – often balancing the risk with the rewards available.
What Parents Can Watch For
Understanding and supporting the positive opportunities that come with sports, parents can counter some of this risk by taking an active role in monitoring how their child is doing. This includes keeping an eye on how frequently practices and games are held, and how hot it is outside when players are training and playing.
As with any sport, football players are prone to overuse injuries. Encouraging our kids (or grandkids) to be vocal about any chronic or recurrent pain, is really important, as it could be the sign of overuse and the need for rest. Being present for the games and asking questions increases your awareness of how your young athlete is doing.
While strength and conditioning training before the season begins is most helpful, young players can always benefit from sports training and injury prevention programs during the season. A good program for football players should emphasize conditioning, including agility drills and sprints; proper weight training, with someone that can teach the correct form; and building bone density and increasing reaction time. Being able to react more quickly, helps the brain work faster during a game and may help an athlete avoid impact with another player, reducing the chance of injury.
As physical therapists we work with youth athletes regularly – not just to rehab after an injury, but before an injury occurs. We have had much success in working with athletes to prevent injury and improve performance. If you are the parent or grandparent of a young football player or know of a friend who is, we encourage you to share this article or this insight.
We are now in the heart of ski season and have patients coming in with ski injuries. As we help these patients heal their injuries, we can see how important it is to share information on how ski injuries can be prevented.
Years of experience has shown us that physical therapy exercises lend great benefit to skiers combined with some basic knowledge of the most common injuries and how they can be prevented.
PHYSICAL THERAPY EXERCISES FOR SKIERS
When we are working with skiers to avoid injuries, we place great focus on helping a skier learn proper form. Being able to shift weight forward, keep legs parallel and allow equal flexion between the ankles, knees and hips is very important.
Next, having a strong core is critical and strengthening exercises can make all the difference in a skier’s good health. A strong core helps with posture and there is a reduction in injuries when turning or twisting. Planks (traditional and side) help strengthen the abdominal muscles.
Having strong legs creates strong knees. Squats, lunges and the use of circuit training machines builds up leg muscles and reduces the risk of knee injuries (like those described below).
Skiers with great upper body strength have better control of their poles. Using weights and or a medicine ball combined with tricep dips, give skiers significant advantages in performance and injury prevention.
INJURIES TO THE KNEES
The most common ski injuries are knee sprains that occur when a ligament around the knee joint is torn or has stretched too far. The two most common knee injuries are MCL (Medial Collateral Ligament) Tears and ACL (Anterior Collateral Ligament) Tears.
MCL Tears involve the tissue that connects the thigh and lower leg. Because these tears occur most frequently when a skier tries to slow down or stop suddenly, skiers can often prevent this injury by learning how to properly balance their weight when they are slowing or turning.
ACL Tears involve the tissue that connects the thighbone to the shinbone. Since this tissue helps to stabilize the knee joint, it can be injured when a skier stops suddenly, changes direction abruptly or lands a jump on a slope awkwardly. When skiers learn how to balance properly and shift their weight forward, they can avoid putting too much weight on the back of their foot and too much pressure on the calves (avoiding an ACL Tear).
INJURIES TO THE WRIST
Broken wrists happen most frequently when a skier falls with an outstretched hand. When they land, the excess pressure on the wrist bones can fracture. Learning how to move the body during a fall combined with wearing a wrist brace can help skiers prevent wrist injuries.
OTHER WAYS TO PREVENT INJURY
While there are several other types of injuries that can occur while skiing (foot and ankle sprains, back injuries, shoulder dislocations) there are many additional methods that can be used for injury prevention. This can include wearing a helmet, having gear that is properly fitted, using a knee brace, shoulder supports and stabilizers, are all examples to discuss with your Physical Therapist or Hand Therapist.
GET ON THE SLOPES, STAY ON THE SLOPES
While we are dedicated to helping skiers with injuries, rehabilitate and get back on the slopes, remember that physical therapy isn’t just for those with injuries. Because we understand body mechanics extremely well, we are also adept at helping you prepare for this demanding but seriously fun physical activity.
With a little smart prep, you can get on the slopes and stay on the slopes, all season long!