Health Talks: How to prevent common cold-weather injuries

In this Health Talks video, our expert Margaret Doe, DO, explains injuries that commonly occur during cold weather activities and sports. While people are more prone to injury in cold weather, Dr. Doe says that with adequate preparation and the appropriate clothing and protective gear, you can help prevent these injuries.

Common cold weather injuries include:

  • Frostbite due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures and blisters caused by clothing that gets wet and create friction against your skin.
  • Sprains and fractures due to falls on icy surfaces or when traveling at high speeds during skiing, snowboarding and even sledding.
  • Muscle and ligament injuries from not properly warming up your body before heading out into colder temperatures to exercise.

To prevent these injuries, Dr. Doe shares these tips:

  • Take breaks to avoid overuse/overexertion when shoveling snow, pushing a snowblower, sledding or even digging your car out of the snow.
  • Stay hydrated, because you lose water through sweat, but in cold temperatures, you won’t feel like you’re sweating.
  • Wear enough clothing to protect your skin and extremities, and be prepared if you plan to be outdoors for a long time. Wear gloves, thick socks, good footwear and wear a hat because we lose a lot of heat through our heads.
  • Take the time to do a warm-up inside before heading out for outdoor activity because it’s harder for our muscles to get warm in cold weather. She suggests simple exercises that get your heart rate up, such as jogging in place, using a stationary bike or any aerobic activity that get your muscles warmed up.
  • Stretch after you warm up and again after being outdoors to keep muscles warm and loose.

If you do experience a cold weather injury, it’s important to know when to seek care. For any injury or accident where you see an obvious deformity, whether it’s your hand or ankle, you should seek urgent care or emergency care immediately. Skin color changes or bruising that doesn’t go away after you go inside to warm up also means you should get medical care.

Dr. Doe says that for soreness or pain that doesn’t get better after one or two weeks and isn’t relieved with over-the-counter medication, you should see your primary care physician.

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