Treating (and Preventing) Winter Sports Injuries
We hope this coming winter provides plenty of opportunities for us to safely get out and enjoy some fun winter sports and activities!
The past year has had more than its fair share of staying at home for many people, so any chance to responsibly head outside and have some fun during the colder months is more than welcome. The last thing we want is for any type of winter sports injury to keep someone holed up indoors even more than they need to be!
While sprains and fractures tend to be more common foot and ankle injuries in winter thanks to ice and snow, there are other potential problems that might arise as well. We will go over a few of them here, as well as provide some helpful tips for reducing your chances of seasonal disaster.
Common Winter Sports Injuries
While sprains and fractures might be the first injuries that come to mind, winter activities can place plenty of stress on the feet and ankles in other ways, too, potentially causing different types of injuries.
Here are a few worth watching out for:
Also known as “skier’s toe” or “toe bang,” this is trauma to the toe that causes bleeding beneath a nail.
This type of injury tends to happen on the slopes when boots are ill-fitting – causing the toes to smash into the front of the footwear – or often when a skier sharply shifts their weight back to steady themselves, causing the toes to crash against the top of their boots.
Snowboarders are not quite as vulnerable to this condition as their boots tend to be softer, but it can still sometimes happen to them.
The pain of a subungual hematoma can be intense, and the blood beneath a blackened nail should be relieved as quickly as possible. Many ski resorts have clinics that are able to perform this service, but call us right away if you don’t have access to one. Never try to drain the nail yourself.
To help prevent toe bang, make sure your boots fit properly, and train yourself to handle weight shifts and bailouts in ways that place your toes at lower risk.
Sticking to the toes, Morton’s neuroma is a buildup of benign tissue around a nerve in the ball of the foot. This is often caused by excess pressure in and impacts to the area, with footwear that compresses the toes and forefoot too much a primary cause. This makes Morton’s neuroma common among skiers, snowboarders, and ice skaters.
If you come to see us for a neuroma, definitely bring your boots, skates or other frequently worn footwear with you! That can help us narrow down the source of the problem.
Treatment for Morton’s neuroma often includes making changes to footwear to allow toes more freedom from compression. We might also recommend cushioned pads or custom orthotics for further relief of pressure.
In some cases, an injection of steroids into the forefoot may also help reduce pain and inflammation. We use an ultrasound-guided technique to ensure we hit the exact spot where the injection can have the best effect.
A long day out in the ice and snow can lead to the formation of blisters. The more friction, heat, and moisture inside your footwear, the more likely blisters will develop over time.
Boots or skates that contain “hot spots” of friction can be abrasive to the feet throughout the day, and a buildup of moisture can further prevent everything from moving comfortably.
Blisters can often be treated well enough at home. Leave a blister intact as much as possible. If you can, leave an unpopped blister exposed, or cover it loosely with a bandage if you need to.
If your blister has already popped, do not remove the excess skin. That is still providing some protection. Gently wash the area with warm water and soap, apply some antibiotic ointment, and then cover with a bandage.
If your blister is particularly painful or in a troublesome area, please give us a call. We can safely drain it and treat the area, if necessary.
Sprains and Fractures
Of course these were going to make the list. Acute injuries such as these are sometimes simply unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to help reduce your chances of trouble:
- Always wear appropriate and properly fitting footwear with working and well-adjusted fastenings. If renting boots, walk around in them a bit to make sure they’re good before you commit to using them.
- Warm up for a few minutes before you start. Some light jogging, heel lifts, lunges, and other motions to work the feet, ankles, and calves can be helpful.
- Listen to your body and don’t push yourself harder than you can endure. Fatigue opens up opportunities for injury, as do long periods of repetitive motions and impacts. Cross-training will also help build up your endurance while limiting repetition.
But sometimes, no matter how hard you prepare yourself, accidents and misfortune will still happen. If you suspect a sprain or break, halt activity and take weight off the affected leg as soon as possible. When you get back indoors, apply a wrapped ice pack (we know, it’s kind of ironic) for up to 20 minutes, several times within the next 48 hours to reduce swelling and pain.
And above all else, give us a call! Let us know what happened so we can provide you with further advice or recommend you come to us for more professional evaluation and treatment. Even a minor sprain, if it doesn’t heal correctly, can lead to instability and a higher chance of future injuries down the road – so there’s never any injury that’s too small to reach out to us about!
Your Go-To for Winter Sports Injury Treatment
We hope your winter is injury-free. But if misfortune does happen, we are here to provide the foot and ankle care you need to get back to action as quickly and as safely as possible.
Schedule an appointment at our Colorado Springs office by calling (719) 266-5000 or by filling out our online contact form. We also have telemedicine appointments available, and will be happy to schedule one if your circumstances allow it.