Hospital reports wintertime injuries down

By Linda Moody lmoody@civitasmedia.com

February 11, 2014

DARKE COUNTY - The number of wintertime injuries expected with the inclement weather this area has had to deal with are surprisingly low so far this season.

“I talked to the medical director, and we’re not seeing the numbers expected,” said Dawn Sweet, director of critical care services at Wayne HealthCare. “We have had some slips, falls and sprains of wrists or ankles, but not like we expected.”

Injuries sustained while having wintertime fun - skiing, snowboarding, sledding or tubing - is 30 percent of winter injuries, according to one report on the Internet. These mostly include fractures, joint dislocations, strains as well as frostbite and head injuries.

During winter months, people must exercise caution at each step, as there may be ice under fresh snow. And, they must be particularly careful as they leave home to avoid slipping on any icy threshold, one of the most frequent causes of injury.

This time of year usually brings snow, ice, freezing rain, extremely low temperatures and, along with those, a lot of safety hazards.

Weather-related injuries include slipping on ice when shoveling snow.

Lynne Gump, executive director of the Darke County chapter of the American Red Cross, has some advice to minimize those risks.

“Beware of black ice,” she said. “Assume the surface is slippery. Take smaller, well-balanced steps and don’t overload what you’re carrying when you walk.”

She also wants people to be careful when they have a cold or sinus infection.

“There is a lot of that and if you have a cold or sinus infection, it can throw you off your balance,” she added.

Another source also advised that people be careful when shoveling to protect their backs.

“Shoveling is a difficult task for even the healthiest of people,” the source said. “You are bending forward [first bad stress on your back] to get down to the snow, then lifting the heavy load of snow [second bad stress on your back] and then twisting to release the load of snow over your shoulder [third bad stress on your back]. If you must shovel — that is, if you do not or will not own a snow blower, you can’t find someone else to do it for you, or you enjoy it — following these tips to minimize the bad stresses on your back.”

Here’s what that source said to do: “First, bend your knees while you are bending forward to reach the snow, Second, bring the loaded shovel close to your body when attempting to lift it. Third, step around to dump the load instead of twisting. Also, listen to your body. If you begin to feel pain or fatigue, then take a rest. Also, if you are injuries, weak, off-balance or in pain to begin with, take even more precaution. You are more likely to injure yourself even more by the act of shoveling or by falling on the slippery snow and ice. If you have not exercised in some time or have any cardiovascular conditions [high blood pressure, shortness of breath, heart or lung problems, etc.], be sure to take several rests to allow your heart to accept all this activity.”

It went on, “If, after shoveling with even the best form possible, you still manage to hurt yourself, you most likely are suffering from strained muscles. This can be quite painful. Rest should help relieve your pain in one to two weeks. If it persists, longer or causes you intense pain, tingling, numbness or weakness, then consult a professional for an evaluation.”

Slipping on the ice is another weather-related cause of injury, the source noted.

“Commonly, the wrist, hip and/or spine are injured with falls of this nature,” the spokesperson said. “FOOSH injuries [Fall On Out-Stretched Hand] can be severe and cause fractures or severe sprains and strains. No matter how balanced you are, ice can take out anyone. Keep your walkways clear and salted and be cautious for black ice. Take the same precautions in parking lots, at others’ homes and in public places. Wearing shoes or boots with good traction may help some.”

Another piece of advice on that Internet link, said sledding and snow tubing are some other ways to sustain minor injuries.

“Avoid going on your stomach/face first; otherwise, choose hills that are not near streets or trees and steer clear of others,” the spokesperson said.