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Exercise

Prepare for Winter Sports Now To Stay Injury-Free


The first thoughts of snow often bring visions of skating, skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports activities, leading many people to rush out to embrace these sports before they're physically ready. This enthusiasm can lead to injuries if you aren't mentally and physically prepared for winter conditions.

The California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) suggests the following tips to help you prepare for and remain injury-free this winter:

Exercise year-round. This strategy helps adjust your body to the strenuous movements that winter sports require. If your body is not in good shape, start with a conditioning routine. Jogging, walking, weight-lifting, blading, biking and aerobics are good preparations.

Stretch beforehand. On the day you're heading for the great outdoors, stretching exercises should be done before each activity. Hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds and do not bounce while stretching.

Get equipment that fits. If you're a skier, pay careful attention to how your ski boots fit. This piece of equipment is one of the most important in helping you stay injury-free, CPMA noted.

Use the proper equipment for your size and skill level. For skiers, buy the best bindings you can afford. Ski bindings that do not properly release during falls are the leading cause of severe lower extremity skiing injuries.

Learn before you leap. Snowboarding, which is becoming the fastest-growing winter sport in the United States, entails a high risk of injury, especially for people who do not learn about proper techniques and equipment. If you're a beginner, take a few lessons to help minimize injury.

Be alert. In extremely cold weather, the feet, which are the furthest from the heart, often lack sufficient blood flow to stay warm. Over-exposure to the cold causes the blood vessels in the feet to constrict, which can lead to frostbite. (Symptoms include the skin changing color to blue, then whitish, and the feet feeling like they are burning or numb.) To avoid blood vessel constriction, podiatric physicians recommend avoiding caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, prolonged exposure to wetness and extreme cold, and tight-fitting footgear.

Warm up. Even skiers and snowboarders who consider themselves experienced should start with a warm-up on a lower-level slope before hitting the steep slopes.

Also, be sure not to overdo it.

"The bottom line is to prepare, pay attention to conditions and listen to what your body is telling you, and you'll be on your way to a safer, healthier winter season," said Dr. Franklin Kase, vice president of CPMA.

Copyright 1999 Health Resources Publishing


© 2000 Health Resources Publishing