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Ask The Doc: Winter Sport Injuries

Published November 2020 | In Spring 2021 Issue

Winter in South Dakota is both beautiful and treacherous. Ice and snow pose a threat for outdoor enthusiasts—particularly skiers and snowboarders. Dr. Ray B. Jensen, a board-certified Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Surgeon, discusses various injuries and shares tips on staying safe during the winter months.

Ask The Doc: Winter Sport Injuries Media

RAY B. JENSEN, D.O. Board Certified Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Surgeon
Monument Health Spearfish

A fellowship-trained Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in arthroscopic treatment and shoulder and knee replacements.

What are a few of the most common injuries you treat at Monument Health during the winter months? 

I see a lot of ski injuries, ranging from minor bumps and bruises to fractures and dislocations. Shoulder and knee injuries are the most common.

Can you briefly explain the nature of each injury? 

Each injury is unique. Knee injuries are common in skiing; falling forces the ACL or MCL into a vulnerable position that can rupture. Falling on an outstretched arm can cause an arm or elbow fracture. Snowboarders are more likely to fall onto a wrist or elbow, fracture their clavicle, or separate their shoulder. 

How are winter sports injuries treated?

It depends on the severity of the injury. Minor bumps, bruises, and strains can be treated with ice, heat, oral and herbal medicines. Broken bones, shoulder injuries, torn ligaments, ACLs, and MCLs may require a brace, cast, injections, or surgical intervention. 

What does the rehabilitation process look like for winter sports injuries?

Simple injuries are easy: rest, ice, heat, and activity modifications allow you to get back into your sport as soon as possible. Recovery time is longer for higher-velocity injuries—broken bones, torn-up knees, and shoulders. That process could last as long as 9 to 12 months and include surgery, physical therapy, rest, and rehab. 

What steps can people take to prevent winter sports injuries? 

Be aware of your surroundings, stay fit and healthy, and don’t overestimate your abilities. Choose a ski run that is proper for your skill level, dress in proper attire, and learn how to turn and stop. Knowing how to fall is helpful, too! Falling on an outstretched arm is dangerous because you’re catching weight on the wrist or shoulder and the impact will go directly into those bones or joints. The old adage “tuck and roll” is a good option when falling. 

The biggest danger with any winter activity is ice. Maintain good contact with the ground by wearing good shoes or boots and consider investing in traction devices that slip onto the bottoms of your shoes. 

Not all winter injuries are sports-related. What are some common injuries that affect everyday people going about their normal routines?

It’s cold in the winter and that ice sticks around. We see a lot of falls and ice-related injuries from people just walking around, coming in and out of homes and businesses. De-icer is great when you can use it. Shoveling snow causes a lot of shoulder and back injuries. Even starting a snowblower can lead to a torn rotator cuff. Always be cautious and maintain a proper position.