Snow shoveling combines heavy lifting and cold weather, resulting in possible injuries to the back and shoulder muscles if proper precautions are not taken. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has recommendations to help you stay safe while clearing snow.
According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission in 2008, more than 70,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries sustained while shoveling or otherwise removing ice and snow manually. In that same year, nearly 15,000 people were injured when operating snowblowers. Types of injuries can include sprains and strains, particularly in the back and shoulders, as well as lacerations and finger amputations.
“Shoveling snow involves a lot of bending and heavy lifting, particularly in wet, heavy snow,” Michael F. Schafer, MD, orthopedic surgeon and spokesperson for the AAOS, stated in a press release. “It may be especially vigorous for people who do not regularly exercise, as their backs, shoulder and arm muscles may not be prepared for that level of activity.”
Because this activity places high stress on the heart, speak with your physician first, AAOS urges. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, consider hiring someone to remove the snow.
Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation. It is also important to wear the appropriate head coverings, as well as mittens or gloves and thick, warm socks. Take a break if you feel yourself getting too hot or too cold.
See what you are shoveling/snow blowing. Make sure that your hat or scarf does not block your vision. Watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces. Avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles.
Clear snow early and often. Begin when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid trying to clear packed, heavy snow.