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Hospital Corner: Winter Injury Prevention

by Riley Polumbus
| November 8, 2023 12:00 AM

November 18 is designated National Injury Prevention Awareness Day which is no surprise to me because: winter.

The curmudgeon of the seasons, winter brings a long list of risk-filled activities many of which are unavoidable like walking outside. What better time to think about injury prevention than over these dicey days of November?

The top four injuries seen in the Whitefish emergency department, in order of the number of patients, are: falls, motor vehicle crashes, ski/snowboard injuries, and bicycle injuries. 

Falls are the number one cause of injury every month, and last February ranked the highest with 62% of the injuries being from falls, mostly due to ice. Logan Health – Whitefish Trauma Coordinator Becky Cox, RN said there are devices that can help reduce the risk.

“Wear ice cleats on shoes or boots for better traction. Keep a set on your outdoor boots, or whatever you use outside most frequently, and change shoes indoors,” said Cox. “You can even find ice grip devices for canes.”

In addition to falls on ice, ground level falls in the home are another culprit for injury. Prevent falls by keeping your home well-lit or using motion-sensor lighting at night. Also, keep your home free of clutter and be aware of other items that might be stumbled upon such as the family pet. Also, ask your doctor to review medications that may pose a risk of falling. 

Motor vehicle crashes can happen any time of year, yet snow and ice often increase the risk. To help lower the risk, winterize vehicles with winter tires and use an ice scraper/snow brush. Winter tires provide better grip on snow and ice which allow drivers better control. Before heading out clear the snow and ice from windows, hood, and roof allowing for better visibility. In addition to these steps, drivers should allow more time to reach their destination and drive with additional caution.

No matter what time of year, all drivers should not drive when impaired by alcohol or drugs, or drive with distractions such as texting, and always wear a seatbelt. 

With ski season fast approaching, Kate Atha, assistant ski patrol manager at Whitefish Mountain Resort, said all skiers and snowboarders should brush up on the National Ski Areas Association's Responsibility Code, which provides easy-to-follow rules aimed at safety on the slopes.

"As patrollers, we respond to skiing- and snowboarding-related injuries all winter long, many of which are preventable," Atha said. "The best way to avoid injuries is to slow down, share the slopes, be mindful of fellow guests, stay within your ability level and never take unnecessary risks. That means always bring a buddy if you're skiing or riding in the trees!"

This Nov. 18, or any day in the coming weeks, take a few minutes to make a list of things you can do to help prevent injury this winter. Prepare your winter gear for your feet and car. Get in shape for the slopes, and stay within your fitness level. Although accidents may happen, there’s a lot we can do to prevent injury and avoid a trip to the emergency room. 

Riley Polumbus, marketing and community relations Logan Health - Whitefish.