Joints take a beating on any body that loves winter sports and thrives in the cold. Whether you’re a downhill racer or take to the local pond for weekly ice hockey, you can never be too careful, and being proactive with preventative measures could help you get ahead of potential injuries down the road.
We spoke with Dr. John Gallucci, MS, ATC, DPT, and currently the Medical Coordinator for Major League Soccer and a Sports Medicine consultant for professional athletes in the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, and USA Wrestling. When preventing injuries in cold weather sports, Gallucci offered us these 5 tips.
1. Stay hydrated
Although it’s cold out, getting proper fluids is still essential, so it’s important to always stay hydrated. Gallucci said, “Dehydration can happen in cold weather just as it does in the warm weather. During activity, you should have a 7-ounce glass of water or sports drink every 20-30 minutes.” If drinking an adequate amount of water means having to stock your fridge, car, office and locker with multiple water bottles, then do it.
2. Wear proper equipment
This might seem like a given, but often times, people use the wrong gear or wear incorrect sizes. Even though you may want to go for the longer set of skis, it’s not worth it. If you don’t have the proper gear for your size and ability level, you’re only setting yourself up for disaster. Whether it’s running shoes or a hockey helmet, make sure it all fits properly, Gallucci advises.
3. Don’t skimp on the stretching
We all know the feeling of wanting to get right to whatever we’ve been looking forward to, whether it’s snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, but stretching is a must. Don’t forget to stretch before and after your activity. According to Gallucci, “This will increase flexibility and prevent simple strains that can occur.”
4. Know your limits
Everyone wants his superhero moment on the ski hill or in the rink, but don’t let your ego get the best of you and cloud your judgement. Knowing your boundaries and skill level – and actually sticking to it and listening to your gut – will be beneficial in the long run, Gallucci explains. Got weak knees after a day of crushing the mountain? Don’t join your buddies for one last run. You’re smarter than that, so just call it a day and meet them at the bar in a few.
5. Train in advance
According to Gallucci, if you maintain consistency and train using a sport-specific strengthening program throughout the year, you will be ready when it’s time to participate in your favorite winter sport. Not only will your body be better equipped to handle potential injuries, but you’ll be better at your favorite sport, too.