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Winter activities can lead to serious injuries - Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 12/03/2013

(Standard-Examiner)OGDEN -- Enjoy the recent balmy weather? Sorry, it's time for a change. Snow and colder temperatures are expected to settle in this week. Along with snow, ice and cold, also comes amputated fingers, frostbite, heart attacks and sports injuries.

According to the Center on Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, sledding injuries account for approximately 20,820 injuries each year in the United States. Lead author Lara McKenzie said she thinks the figures are higher, because many sledding injuries are often not seen in the emergency room.

Injuries include fractures, bruises and abrasions, cuts and sprains and traumatic brain injuries. Snow tubes were responsible for the majority of brain injuries.

"I want them to go sledding, I want them to have fun, but we could do a better job," McKenzie said in a press release. "Twenty thousand injuries a year for an activity you can only do a couple days a year is big."

Ogden Regional Medical Center director of trauma services Deanna Wolfe, said not only is it smart to wear a helmet while sledding, it's also very cool.

"Bike helmets work great for sledding," she said. "We see a number of head injuries every year from sledding, snowboarding and ski activities. Your brain is the consistency of Jell-O and if you mess it up by hitting something hard with your head it doesn't go back together well. Remember Humpty Dumpty? All of our skilled trauma physicians cannot put everything back together. We need you to take precautions and be safe as well."

Wolfe said before you go racing down a hill, look to see what's at the bottom. Are there trees, rocks, cars or fences you could hit? If so, find another location to sled.

"There is no good steering with sledding," she said.

Ogden Clinic orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brett Richards said it's important to remember helmets are only designed for a single impact.

"That means that if you have fallen and hit your head while wearing your helmet you need to replace it," he said. "If you don't, your current helmet will not offer the protection you need."

In addition, Richards said, if you are not properly trained and are not using the proper gear or equipment, any sport can be dangerous. Richards also said it's important to stay fit year round so you are less prone to winter sports injuries. Warm up and stretch before any activity and make sure you only perform at your level of skill.

Some of the other top injuries seen during the winter weather are wrist fractures, shoulder dislocation or fracture, elbow injures, broken legs, ankle injuries and knee ligament tears, said Richards.

"We also see a number of back injuries from people shoveling snow and severe hand injuries from people reaching into their snow blowers to clear the snow," Richards said.

Wolfe said she has seen head and eye injuries caused by snow blowers.

"Do not attempt to remove snow from the chute or under the snow blower. There is pressure build up when the snow blower stops blowing and anything you put into the obstruction will pull the object into the blade," she said.

While it's tempting to let teenagers snow blow, Wolfe said to make sure they know how to respond when unexpected things happen.

"It is very important to never override the blade turn-off safety mechanism that is on the blower handle," she said.

If you're going to shovel the traditional way, Wolfe said it's best not to do it after eating a big meal as it causes strain on your heart, especially if you're not used to strenuous activity.

Wolfe said ice on driveways and walkways can be very deceiving.

"Please use salt or even kitty litter on areas where people may walk," Wolfe said. "Stepping off a step onto another step or the sidewalk is especially hazardous if there is ice. Rubber mats made for stairs are available in many places and they can really minimize this hazard."

Wolfe said to place drains to divert water away from walkways.

"We see many broken bones and head injuries due to slipping on ice and falling," she said. "If there is a car crash and the roads may be wet and slippery, stay in your car. You can easily be hit by a car that loses control."

Other things to watch for include placing candles high enough out of a small child's reach, avoid putting them near edges where they can be knocked over, keep them away from curtains and other furniture and don't pick the candle up when it's hot. Also have someone help when you're hanging Christmas lights on the house. And forget about shoveling snow off the roof. Call for a professional instead.

And remember, don't just protect yourself this winter. Protect your pets as well.

"Chocolate is bad for your pet but so are potatoes and onions," Wolfe said. "Please remember your pet is healthiest and happiest, even though their sad eyes may try to trick you, when eating the food prepared especially for them and not food from the table."

Keep an eye on your pets around Christmas ornaments, tinsel, plugged in lights and plants. Holly and mistletoe and chrysanthemums can cause nausea, vomiting and even kidney failure. Also, keep alcohol and medication out of reach and try to keep the noise level to a minimum.