Falls can turn a fun day on the slopes into a medical emergency requiring rescue.
The winter offers a unique and exciting playground for a variety of activities. From skiing and snowboarding to hockey and ice fishing the choices are many. While the fun is real, so are the unique dangers that come with winter activities. Before you head out into the winter wonderland, understand the dangers that go with the day.
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. The condition can be aggravated further if the victim is wet. Many people do not know that hypothermia can occur in temperatures as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As the body loses heat, you will begin to shiver uncontrollably. You will eventually lose cognitive functions and the ability to think clearly. As it progresses, your heart, nervous system and other organs can’t work normally. Left untreated, hypothermia can eventually lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and even death. Hypothermia is a major cause of death during outdoor recreational activities.
Many of our winter activities take place on the ice. However, frozen lakes and streams have the potential to collapse and drop people into frigid, life-threatening water. Injuries and death from an ice collapse are caused by hypothermia and drowning; when people fall though the ice there is a physiological shock that occurs because of the cold water. This can cause panic in some and dangerous heart responses in others. Unless you pull yourself out or are rescued quickly, you are in very serious danger. Know and respect ice thickness guidelines and never walk on unknown ice.
Winter sports falls can be tragic. According to Dr. Mike Langran, a leading authority on snow sports injury and prevention, while not considered extremely dangerous, skiing does pose some serious risks. “With regard to fatalities, in the U.S. during the past 10 years, about 41.5 people have died skiing/snowboarding per year on average. During the 2010/11 season, 47 fatalities occurred out of the 60.5 million skier/snowboarder days reported for the season.” The best advice to follow is to ski or skate within your own ability. Watch your speed and be conscious of your surroundings.
This article originally published in SURVIVOR’S EDGE® Spring 2015. Print and Digital Subscriptions to SURVIVOR’S EDGE® magazine are available here.
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