Winter Wonderland Can Be Dangerous To Your Health

January 17, 2012 - 9:59am

Winter is here, and soon New Yorker’s will face the first ice and snow of the season – and with it an increased potential for slips, falls and injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, in 2010 more than 148,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries sustained while shoveling or otherwise removing ice and snow. These types of injuries include sprains and strains, particularly of the back and shoulders.

“It may be beautiful to look at and fun to play in, but snow and ice can create hidden dangers – particularly for the elderly or those that don’t exercise regularly,” says Alan Dayan, MD, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and medical director at the Samuels Immediate Care Center at NYU Langone’s Hospital for Joint Diseases. “We see a sharp increase in injuries at the center at this time of year – people forget that shoveling snow can be just as strenuous as lifting weights and icy conditions create unstable footing that results in muscle pulls, twisted knees and hand or wrist injuries.” Dr. Dayan suggests the following advice for safely dealing with snow and ice, including:  

  • Check with your doctor. Removing snow and ice can be stressful to the heart – so make sure to talk to your physician before doing it yourself (particularly if you have any heart or breathing conditions.)
  • Shovel early and often.  Don’t wait for the snow to end (and is packed and heavy) before shoveling – start after a small accumulation and repeat periodically. Remember to do warm-up exercises for about 10 minutes before you start, take frequent rest breaks and drink water to keep from dehydrating.
  • Use proper technique. Pushing snow is better than lifting it. If you must lift, remember to bend at the knees to engage the larger leg muscles. And don’t throw snow over your shoulder or to the side – the twisting motion is very stressful on your back.
  • Tread carefully. Traversing across ice and snow can be treacherous, particularly in an urban area like New York City or Chicago where snow can pile up on the street corner. Wear good, waterproof boots or shoes with slip-resistant soles; walk slower than normal and watch the sidewalk for any signs of ice.

The Samuels Orthopaedic Immediate Care Center is New York City’s only walk-in clinic for patients with muscle, bone and joint conditions and injuries and treats more than 7,000 patients with urgent or emergent orthopaedic problems every year since established in 1993. The center is open seven days a week from 8:00AM with the last registration at 10:30PM. You can find out more about the Immediate Care Center at


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