Winters in Connecticut and the northeastern United States provide the perfect opportunity for residents and tourists to enjoy some seasonal activities, like skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and more. These sports can be enjoyable and a great way to stay in shape, but traveling down slick slopes or across hard ice can also lead to injuries. In many instances, it’s the feet and ankles that suffer when winter sports injuries develop. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at some of the more common winter sport injuries that affect the feet, and we share some tips for staying injury-free when partaking in specific winter sports.

Common Types Of Winter Foot And Ankle Injuries

The types of injuries people commonly suffer during winter sports aren’t typically all that different from what commonly fell athletes in many traditional summer sports. Unexpected twisting of the ankle or trauma to the foot can lead to a number of injuries, with some of the most common winter sports injuries being:

  • Ankle Sprains
  • Ankle Fractures
  • Toe Fractures
  • Heel Bruises
  • Frostbite
  • Athlete’s Foot

Aside from the above conditions, poor fitting winter sports footwear can lead to joint damage in the toes. Although these conditions develop slowly over time, problems like bunions and hammertoes can develop if you’re constantly shoving your foot into a tight ice skate or a ski boot that is a half size too small.

Preventing Foot Injuries During Specific Winter Sports

Not all winter sports injuries are preventable, but if you are aware of some of the common threats to your feet and ankle during specific activities, you can work to reduce your risk of injury. Here are some tips to keep in mind based on your winter sport:

  • Skiing – Downhill and cross country skiing are incredibly popular in the Connecticut winter, but they are also a common cause of foot and ankle injuries. You want to choose a ski boot that is snug but not overly tight on your foot. Your toes should not be compressed inside the boot, and when you’re tightening the boot, make sure you don’t cut off circulation to the ankle. As for when you’re on the slopes, stay within your limits and always watch out for other skiers on the hill. Collisions are a common source of injury, so just like when you’re on the road, be a defensive skier and never assume another skier will act a certain way. If you roll your ankle or your supportive ankle ligaments start to hurt, take a break. Overstressing the ankle ligaments, especially early in the season when your muscles are still getting used providing support during the activity, is a common way to injure your ankle.
  • Snowboarding – Many of the tips listed in skiing will apply here, but there are some other tips to consider. Make sure your bindings are tight to the board and your ankles don’t shift inside your boot, otherwise your risk of ankle injury increases. Also, make sure you choose a boot style that supports your style of snowboarding. Flexible boots make maneuvering easier but offer less protection to the ankle, whereas hard boots provide more protection and less maneuverability. Know what suits your needs on the hill and choose the right boot for your situation. Also, be sure to wear warm socks to help avoid frostbite, and slowly build up your time on the hill. Your ankles need time to adjust to the new stress, so snowboarding a lot in a short amount of time can contribute to overstress injuries.
  • Ice Skating – If you like to skate on an ice rink or a frozen lake, you’ll want to be mindful about protecting your ankle when it’s in the skate. Again, choose a snug and supportive skate that is not overly tight, and keep this in mind when lacing your skate. Tying them too tightly can lead to a condition known as “lace bite” that irritates the tendon on the top of your foot. Conversely, if your skates are too loose, they won’t provide enough support to your ankles, and that can lead to a sprain or worse. If you have questions about how a boot should fit, ask in store or for assistance at the rink. If you haven’t skated regularly, limit your time on the ice during your first few sessions to avoid overstress injuries.

If you happen to suffer an injury or develop a new foot pain while you’re partaking in winter sports, connect with a foot and ankle specialist in your area. If you’re in the Enfield or Hartford areas, consider calling Dr. McDonald and his team today at (860) 224-8889.

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