As most of the country is suffering through another deep freeze with record snowfalls watching the winter Olympics on TV is a highlight in this otherwise cold and snowy winter. After watching elite athletes at the Olympics many of us amateurs are tempted to experience that thrill of victory firsthand by participating in some of these winter sports. Curling is a fairly low injury sport but if you want to participate in higher profile sports such as skiing, snowboarding or snowmobiling you need to exercise some common sense along with your dreams for Olympic gold.
Tips to stay safe during outdoor sports
- Condition muscles before participating in winter activities. Don’t go from being a couch potato to attempting the widow maker double black diamond run at your local ski resort. Being physically fit before you ski or snowboard will make the sport easier and help to prevent injury.
- Take a lesson from a qualified instructor. Taking a lesson will not only teach you correct form and skills but you will also learn the rules of the sport such as looking uphill and yielding to others when you are merging onto a trial.
- Never participate alone in a winter sport. The buddy system really works when things go wrong. Do not push yourself to exhaustion. Know your limits, many winter sports injuries happen at the end of the day when you might be tempted to overexert yourself for that last run of the day.
- Stay hydrated. Winter winds and exercise can dehydrate you just as easily as exercising during a hot summer day. Drink plenty of water before and after participating in a winter sport. If possible take a water bottle with you to rehydrate during your activity.
- Check your equipment. Make sure your ski or snowboard bindings are adjusted correctly. For sleds make sure that there are no jagged, sharp edges or protruding rivets to catch clothes and skin on. If you are snowmobiling conduct a safety check before each ride and never start a ride without a full tank of gas.
- Wear several layers of light, loose, water and wind resistant clothing for warmth and protection. Wear proper footwear for your activity that provides warmth and dryness. Wearing appropriate clothing will prevent frostbite. Frostbite physically affects the extremities, such as ears, fingertips, toes and your nose. Wear a hat that covers your ears, and wear a scarf or face covering around your mouth and nose. Wearing insulated gloves, boots and thick socks will prevent hand and foot injuries.
- Wear appropriate protective gear for your sport including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding.
- Know the terrain. Check out the sliding area before sledding down a slope. Additionally, never hook sleds onto motorized vehicles. If snowmobiling know where fences, gullies, and rocks may be hidden. Also be aware of open bodies of water and thin ice. If skiing or snowboarding stay within bounds at the resort to avoid unmarked obstacles and hazards.
- Be tuned to the weather forecasts. Severe drops in temperature may catch you unprepared and can be dangerous.
- Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if you are experiencing the symptoms of hypothermia or frostbite.
If you are fortunate enough to be in Vancouver to watch the winter Olympics don’ forget that iTriage is with you and should you need to seek medical attention you can find the closest medical center right on your iPhone and smartphone. Download iTriage from the app store or enter iTriageHealth.com in your smartphone browser.