For many athletes and weekend exercise warriors, winter is a time to enhance their cardiovascular health. Many partake in winter sports such as sledding, skiing, snowboarding, rough-and-tumble ice hockey, or casual ice skating. Winter sports offer a fast track for fun, but expose the body to injuries, especially foot and ankle injuries.
Some common winter and snow sports injuries related to the foot and ankle include:
- Frostbite – The symptoms of frostbite include skin-color changes, from blue to whitish, and a feeling of burning or numbness;
- Blisters – Friction in winter sports footwear often causes blisters;
- Neuromas – Enlarged benign growths of nerves between the toes are caused by friction in tight footwear and can result in pain, burning, tingling, or numbness. Neuromas require professional treatment, including an evaluation of skates and boots, from a podiatric physician;
- Sprains and strains – The stress of skiing and skating can result in sprains and strains of the foot and ankle. They can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). If pain persists, seek medical attention from a podiatric physician; and
- Subungual hematoma – Pressure in the toe box of a ski or skate can cause bleeding under the toenail known as a subungual hematoma. This condition should be treated by a podiatric physician to prevent the loss of a toenail.
Podiatric physicians recommend properly fitted shoes or boots to prevent winter and snow injuries. With adequate preparation and proper equipment, you can prevent most injuries common to winter and snow sports.
- Maintain an adequate fitness level all year round. Being fit is the best way to avoid many sports-related injuries in winter.
- Find a buddy who enjoys your sport. Never participate in winter sports alone.
- Warm up thoroughly before activity. Cold muscles, tendons, and ligaments are vulnerable to injury. Make sure to cool down thoroughly afterwards, as well.
- Wear several layers of light, loose, water and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection.
- Wear proper footwear that is in good condition and keeps feet warm and dry. Footwear should provide ample ankle support, as well.
- Wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves, and padding.
- Wear a blended sock that “wicks” sweat away from the skin. Consult your podiatric physician for recommendations.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your sports activity.
- Move to a warm, dry environment if your feet get wet. The skin tissues of wet, cold feet are in danger of freezing (frostbite).
Source: AMERICAN PODIATRIC MEDICAL ASSOCIATION