As we brace ourselves for another Canadian winter, let’s take another look at some tips for preventing concussions in winter sports and winter weather. Winter weather can often pose hazardous conditions that lead to an increased risk of falls and injury. While the incidence of injuries in Canadians is highest in the summer, the number of serious injuries is greatest in the winter months.[i] These injuries include concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries that can result from slip and falls due to icy or snowy conditions, or from winter sports.
What is a Concussion?
Concussions result from mechanical force or trauma that is characterized by immediate and transient alteration in brain function. Every year in Canada, over 20,000 people are hospitalized for traumatic brain injuries, which can range from mild to severe and include concussions.[ii]
Following a concussion, some people may suffer persisting symptoms, such as memory and concentration problems, mood swings, personality changes, headache, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia and excessive drowsiness for several weeks to months. This is known as post-concussive syndrome.
You might also enjoy reading: How to Recognize Concussion Symptoms
Tips for Preventing Concussions in Winter Weather
In the winter months head injuries, including concussions, can occur due to slipping and falling on icy or snowy sidewalks. This can be particularly dangerous to seniors or those with decreased mobility, poor vision and decreased sensation. In Canada, 4 out of 5 injury hospitalizations involving seniors were due to falls.[iii]
Some injuries can be avoided by taking these steps when walking outdoors:
- Wear shoes with good traction
- Dress warm to keep muscles relaxed to help maintain your balance
- Take extra time – use a wide stance with feet turned outwards to help your balance
- Be careful when getting in and out of cars making sure to have both feet on the ground
- Pay attention to the surfaces in front of you to avoid black ice and slippery surfaces
You may also enjoy reading: Cold Weather Injury Prevention
Tips for Preventing Concussions in Winter Sports
While concussions can occur in any sport throughout the year, winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, sledding and hockey have the high velocity and impact potential to lead to concussions. Research suggests that sports-related concussions are being increasingly reported by children and adolescents, with 10-12% of minor league players (ages 9-17) reporting some type of head injury.[iv]
While every concussion cannot be prevented, some tips can help reduce the risk of injury. This includes:
- Wearing properly fitted sport specific headgear and safety equipment
- Teaching proper techniques for contact sports
- Educating parents, coaches and athletes on signs and symptoms of concussion
- Proper physical conditioning for sports including strengthening neck and shoulder muscles
You may also enjoy reading: Winter Running Tips
While the winter weather can pose many risks, by taking the proper steps you can minimize your chance of injury. At Propel Physiotherapy, we offer a range of services and therapies to keep you safe during the winter months. Our physiotherapists and exercise specialists can help with balance training and fall prevention, concussion baseline testing and symptom management and treatment for winter injuries. Don’t let winter stop you from enjoying the outdoors.