Almost all the leaves are off the trees, there is a base of snow blanketing the Sierra Nevadas, and the ski resorts are gearing up for visitors. It is officially winter in northern Nevada. And while our winters can be beautiful, they also pose an increased risk of injury. Whether participating in some backcountry snowshoeing, or just a slip and fall on the ice, winter gives us lots of opportunities for ouch!

Here are several of the most common injuries we treat patients for in the winter, and some best practices for proactive prevention (say that five times fast!).

Knee Injuries from Skiing
While skiing can result in a host of injuries, the most common ones we see are knee ligament sprains and tears. Just the general motion of skiing puts a lot of stress on your knees. The ACL and MCL are the most at risk for injury when there is a great amount of pressure or strain put on them, or if they move to an unnatural angle.

Strength and conditioning as well as proper form are your biggest allies in avoiding knee injuries on the slopes. We can work with you to develop a strength program prior to and during your ski season. We can also evaluate your posture and work to correct any issues, which will help keep your body in proper alignment and form while racing down the hill.

Broken Bones from Slip and Falls
Reno can get very icy and in one false move you can find yourself on the ground. We see everything from broken wrists and hips to major sprains and strains from falls. If you do break something, physical therapy can help you get back range of motion or functionality once the bone is set. For sprains and strains, we can help to heal the muscles and ligaments with exercise, manipulation and stretching.

If you do find yourself in an icy spot, look for areas where it has been salted and stick to those. Wear proper shoes when going out in weather – boots with good traction and a non-slip sole. And when in doubt, don’t go out! Snuggle up on the couch with a movie and some DoorDash and call it a night.

Car Accident Injuries
With the slicker roads and inclemete weather, car accidents are more likely. We often work with patients who have been in a car accident and need rehabilitation for whiplash or spinal injuries. While you can’t predict a car accident, wearing your seatbelt, staying off your phone, and avoiding distractions like eating, go a long way in keeping you out of harm’s way (and that’s true in any season!). Make sure you have chains or snow tires and leave extra distance between you and other cars when it is snowing or raining.

Back Injuries from Shoveling Snow
The snow sure is pretty when it is falling, but all that winter wonderland must be cleared eventually. Shoveling is actually a really intense workout. If you are not in good shape or conditioned, you can injure yourself. That lifting and twisting motion can cause muscle strains or even misaligned discs.

Before you suit up and go out with a shovel in hand, make sure you do a few back, shoulder, and arm stretches to get your muscles warm. Then when you are shoveling, you want to make sure and use strong and controlled motions, rather than relying on momentum. That fast twist to dump the snow is usually where people get in trouble. And if you feel tired, sore or winded, take a break. Shoveling snow while you are fatigued is a recipe for injury.

Let’s all stay safe and healthy this winter season so we can enjoy all the fun, seasonal activities Reno and Tahoe have to offer this time of year!