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Maintain Spine Health During Luxury, Winter-Sporting Fun

Maintain Spine Health During Luxury, Winter-Sporting Fun

By Andrew M. Cash, M.D.

Although West-coast meteorologists aren’t likely to predict freezing temperatures anytime soon, winter is on approach in much of the United States. Many of us on the left coast enjoy vacationing in snow-laden areas for the luxury and relaxation of ski slopes, and fortunately, most seasonal Winter-Sports Warriors only suffer the aches and pains in muscles that have not been used in a while. However, there are serious injuries that can result from negligent or sometimes even over-cautious, winter-related recreational activities.

Since knowledge is power, it can be helpful to pre-empt outdoor wintertime activity with a realistic reminder of what could happen if we don’t ease back slowly into our seasonal hobbies.

Skiing and Snowboarding: An Inconvenient Truth

Often, skiers and snowboarders suffer from sprains, fractures, cartilage injuries, ordislocations of a variety of body parts.

Ankles: Ankle treatments can require rest, ice, compression, and elevation; protecting the amount of weight bearing down on a foot or ankle with a boot; or, potentially, surgery. There are also fractures, which can be associated with dislocations and, if involved with a joint, can result in accelerated degeneration of the joint requiring future care such as surgical interventions.

Knees: The spectrum of injuries that can occur inoneor both knees includes tendon sprains or strains; ligamentous sprains grades 1-3; fractures; and/or dislocations. Some knee fractures are associated with a high incidence of neurologic injury causing reduced sensation and paralysis in the ankle and foot. Other knee fractures are associated withvascular injury and essential limb-threatening disasters requiring emergent operative intervention.

Hips: As we move up the lower extremities, hip fractures and/or dislocations can occur, but are much less likely than the others I’ve described. Depending on the severity, operative intervention might involve screws and plates or even an immediate hip replacement. Prolonged rehabilitation often involves wheelchairs and walkers.

Upper extremities: The most likely serious injuries in the arms include wrist sprains and fractures, and occasional elbow or shoulder dislocations or fractures. Sprains can take longer than fractures to heal, and at a minimum they serve as distractors during work and play. Surgical intervention can be followed by immobilization with slings or casts; then, by prolonged range of motion and strengthening exercises.

Head and Spinal Cord: Closed-head injuries—wherein a skier might strike his or her head into an immovable object such as a tree, a barrier or ice—can be catastrophic. […] Continue reading on Page 50-51

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