Ice Injuries: At-Risk Groups, Prevention Methods, And Treatment Options

Updated on May 10, 2022

Winter arrives every year, and with it comes many benefits: ice skating, roasting marshmallows by the fire, celebrated holidays, and more. But there is a downside, too: the ice and snow inevitably lead to an uptick in hospital visits due to slips and falls.

Common Injuries and At-Risk Groups

Thousands of people are injured because of falls on ice and snow. In the worst-case scenarios, the resulting injuries are fatal. Some of the most hazardous areas are stairs and sidewalks, although people may also fall during everyday activities like running errands, hanging decorations, and exercising.

Common injuries due to falling, tripping, or slipping on ice and snow include: 

  • Concussions and other forms of head trauma
  • Rotator cuff tears and other muscle and ligament sprains or tears
  • Spinal fractures and other forms of compression fractures
  • Broken wrists, hips, shins, tailbones, and other bones
  • Herniated spinal discs, typically in the lower back

Usually, the severity of an injury increases with age. This means that elderly citizens are at greater risk during wintertime, though they are not the only vulnerable demographics. Pregnant women and people with disabilities, especially mobility disabilities, should also exercise caution during winter. 

How To Reduce The Chances Of Injury

Even though we can predict the weather, there is no way for people to predict the future. They cannot account for all possible events, which means there is no way to eradicate the chance of slipping or falling on ice completely. However, there are several steps you can take to reduce the possibility of this and therefore reduce the likelihood of related injuries.

Ways to reduce the chances of you or a loved one slipping on ice and being injured include preparing for inclement weather by salting sideways, stocking up on necessities such as food and water, and clearing your schedule as much as possible. It is also a good idea to clear your driveway, steps, sidewalks, and nearby streets of snow, or else hire someone to do it for you.

And if you have to go out, try to follow these tips: 

  • Wear shoes with good traction and ensure your clothing is warm but not cumbersome (i.e., your arms and hands should be able to move easily)
  • Bring a friend or family member with you so that you are not alone; if this is not possible, make sure you have your phone and that it is fully charged
  • Take shorter steps and walk more slowly to account for the more challenging terrain

You should make an appoint with your doctor or other healthcare professional as soon as possible if you do fall on the snow or ice. Even if you do not feel hurt initially, your injuries may have a delayed onset of symptoms. This is especially true for individuals that fall in the three at-risk groups described above (elderly, pregnant, or disabled individuals).

Common Treatment Options For Injuries

There are several common treatment options for injuries relating to falls on ice, such as resting as much as possible, applying ice or heat as instructed, and using methods to reduce swelling (such as elevation and massages).

However, your specific treatment will depend on your injury, its severity, and any related health factors. For example, your doctor may not be able to prescribe you certain painkillers because of allergies or other medication you are currently on. In the same way, your treatment options may be limited if you are recovering from a previous injury.

Your primary physician may need to refer you to a specialist or other doctor with more experience in a specific field. Skeletal and muscular injuries may involve a referral to an orthopedic doctor, 

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