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Surviving the Canadian Winter: How to Prevent Winter Sports-Related Injuries
The beginning of the winter season is signaled by frigid cold, ice and snow and along with this comes a shift in the way we play. No matter what your sport of choice; figure skating, snowboarding, hockey, skiing or just brisk walking there are a couple of minor changes you can make to your routine to prevent injury before heading out for your daily dose of physical activity.
Warm-up: cold muscles have decreased elasticity and therefore are more susceptible to sprain/strain injuries. Even though it’s tempting to dive right in and hit the ice or slopes try not to begin before you have completed an adequate warm-up. A short, dynamic warm-up will prevent injury by increasing circulation and jump starting your neuromuscular system.
Flexibility: stretching daily is crucial, even more so during periods of inactivity.
Core strength, stability and alignment: core muscles are a series of muscles that run the entire length of the torso and act to stabilize the pelvis and spine. When these muscles contract they form a solid base of support as well as stabilize the pelvis, spine and shoulder girdle. The action of these muscles allows us to generate powerful movements from the lower extremities and balance ourselves. Some core exercises include:
Front to side plank (hold 30-60 seconds)
Balance and agility: the winter ice, snow and uneven ground can really put our balance to the test. Good balance allows our muscles and joints to better adapt to changes in terrain. Try integrating some balance exercises into your workout regimen, such as one-legged standing on an unstable surface or couch cushion and single leg balancing with eyes closed.
Landing: when you find yourself air bound, whether it be an intentional result of sport or an accident, landing safely should be your chief concern. Landing with bad alignment can be the impetus for many injuries, especially knee injuries, which often involve awkward twisting of the knee mechanism or hyper extending. When possible, be sure to land with an athletic stance (core is in good alignment and hips, knees and ankles are in a flexed position).
Even if winter sports aren't up your ally, the above exercises can still benefit in helping to keep you motivated and active over the cold winter season. Although curling up on the couch with a warm beverage may seem tempting when it’s cold outside, maintaining a daily exercise regimen will help eliminate pain and increase flexibility.