Question of the Week

January 30, 2006


The 2006 Winter Olympics will begin this week in Torino, Italy.

"Winter Olympic Sports: Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Bobsleigh, Cross-country Skiing, Curling, Figure Skating, Freestyle Skiing, Ice Hockey, Luge, Nordic Combined, Short Track, Skeleton, Ski Jumping, Snowboard, [and] Speed Skating"

For those who are interested in watching, this offers an opportunity for hours of entertainment. However, for many, the Olympics tend to bring out more than just the spectator within. There will be spectators and aspiring athletes all over the world who will be inspired to do more than just watch. For those interested in trying new things, or advancing to a new level in a sport with which they already have some experience, there is much to learn...

Discover all about the sports on the programme of the Olympic Winter Games, with detailed explanations of each event, the equipment required and the techniques used."

Before heading out to participate in any winter sport, it is important to remember that it is winter.

"One of the most important ways to be safe during winter sports doesn't even have to do with the activities themselves - it has to do with keeping warm! When you're preparing to go sledding, skating, skiing, or snowboarding, you've got to put on the right clothes and accessories before you even think about grabbing your equipment. Keeping warm means you'll have a better - and safer - time while you're outdoors. That's because keeping your body at the right temperature means you won't need to spend as much energy getting warm - so you can spend more energy enjoying your sport. Also, if you're dressed properly, it means you can stay outside longer without worrying about frostbite."

While some safety tips are unique to one sport, others (along with common sense) can be applied to many. The following sports each have their own guidelines, but some of the safety and conditioning tips can be applied to other winter sports (or even sports associated with other seasons).

For snowboarders:

"Here are some tips from members of the U.S. Snowboard Team, as well as from recreational snowboarders:
   * Get in shape first. A regular general fitness program will make snowboarding easier and help protect you from injury.
   * Use the right equipment. Buy or rent good snowboarding boots, an all-purpose snowboard, a helmet and wrist guards.
   * Pick the right time and place to learn. Take lessons from a trained instructor in good weather (when there is good visibility and it's not too cold). Pick a skiing area that allows snowboarders. Use slopes that are not crowded and have packed snow. Avoid icy slopes."

For those more interested in going down the slope on skis:

"Want to avoid fatigue, muscle pain and possible injury when downhill skiing this season? Start training with floor exercises to target the muscles that keep your body in control as you ski. In addition to these exercises, you can benefit from other strength training exercises. Leg presses will help you strengthen your leg muscles, and triceps extension exercises will help you strengthen your upper arms and the muscles you use for poling. You'll enjoy the rewards that training for downhill skiing will bring. You'll feel more confident and maintain greater control as you swoosh through the snow."

For those looking for a little fun, but not necessarily an organized sport:

"If sledding is your sport, choose your hill carefully. Avoid areas that are too steep or have obstructions like rocks or trees. The best sleds are those that you can steer; the safest way to ride is sitting up (there's less risk of head injury this way). For ice skaters, man-made rinks are the best choice because the surface is smooth and there's no danger of falling into frigid waters. If you do want to skate on a pond or a lake, be sure the ice is at least 4 to 6 inches thick with no holes or soft spots."

Additional tips for ice skaters (or those going out on the
ice for any reason):

" * Skates should fit comfortably and provide ankle support.
   * Only skate in designated skating areas where the ice is known to be strong.
   * Always check for cracks, holes, and debris on the ice.
   * Never skate alone."

For those interested in adding hockey to their ice skating:

"Mandatory use of standardized helmets has apparently reduced the incidence of skull fractures and intracranial hematoma. Despite helmet protection, concussions occur with alarming frequency. ... Physicians and athletic trainers should always rule out an associated neck injury when evaluating a player with a suspected concussion. ... Facemasks have dramatically reduced the risk of eye injuries, including periorbital lacerations. Eye trauma from a stick, puck or elbow to players wearing partial or no protection can cause hyphema, orbit fracture, retinal detachment, or globe rupture. A blinding eye injury to a hockey player wearing full facial protection has never been reported. ..."

Hockey is notoriously a dangerous sport, and added protection has help prevent numerous injuries. That said, any sport has risks -- and safety precautions are not safety guarantees.

"The risk of spinal cord injury, including quadriplegia, may be increasing and appears to be higher in hockey than football. Helmets and facemasks have been implicated in this apparent increased incidence of neck injuries because players feel invincible and officials are more lenient in calling penalties. No scientific research to date supports these contentions. However, a false sense of security may lead to violent attitudes and tactics. Prevention of catastrophic injuries involves the cooperation of players, coaches, and officials."

Questions of the Week:
What winter sports (or outdoor winter activities) interest you? Your friends? Your peers? Your family? What precautions should you (or those you know) take in order to enjoy these sports and/ or activities safely? Do you think that different people need to take into consideration different safety issues? (Why might some think that this be the case? Why might others disagree?) What would be a safe environment in which to learn or practice the sports or activities that interest you and those you know?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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