Winter brings a whole new set of sports and outdoor activities. Sports are a great way to get some fresh air and exercise during the cold winter months. However, they are also a great way to become injured.
With the high impact nature of most winter sports, knees often pay the price with the knees absorbing much of the shock to the body. In addition to bruises and sprains, the ligaments of the knee are vulnerable.
The anterior cruciate ligament of the knee is usually injured by a direct blow to the knee, by planting your foot and cutting, by landing hard on a straight leg or by making an abrupt stop.
Some signs of an anterior cruciate ligament injury are feeling the knee give way, sometimes accompanied by an audible ‘pop’, moderate pain that makes it impossible to continue the activity,and swelling that develops over several hours and makes it difficult to walk. The swelling and pain are usually the worst during the first 2 days following the injury.
Another common knee injury is the meniscus tear. The meniscus is a wedge of cartilage between the bones in the knee joint. Initial treatment of a meniscal tear follows the basic RICE formula – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Anti-inflammatory medications for pain if required.
If the knee is stable and does not lock, this conservative treatment may be all that is required.
If the knee becomes painful, stiff or locked, surgery may be required. Depending on the type of tear, whether injury has also occurred to other ligaments, age and other factors an arthroscope may be used to trim off the damaged pieces of cartilage and a brace used to immobilise the knee after surgery. Rehabilitation and strengthening exercises are then used to gradually resume normal activities.
There are some telltale signs that will warn you that it is time to see an orthopaedic surgeon;
- The inability to play following an acute or sudden injury.
- Decreased ability to play because of chronic or long-term complications following an injury.
- Visible deformity of the limb or joint and severe pain from acute injuries.
By providing prompt treatment, you can often prevent a minor injury from turning into something more serious.
Orthopaedic surgeons have the greatest knowledge of and experience with the wide range of conditions and treatment options available in musculoskeletal care, many of which do not involve surgery. However, if surgery is the best recommendation for recovery, the orthopaedic surgeon is the best trained to provide that surgical treatment.
There are many things people can do to help prevent injury during winter activities:
- Keep in shape and condition muscles before participating in winter activities.
- Warm up thoroughly before playing or participating. Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are vulnerable to injury. regardless of age, our bodies need to be warmed up and stretched before engaging in sports activities to help minimise the risk of injury and optimise performance.
- Stretching, a basic stretching routine should cover all of the major muscle groups. Investigating the best stretches for the specific sport and adding them to your basic stretching routine will optimise results.
-Wear appropriate protective gear.
- Check that equipment is working properly prior to use.
- Wear several layers of light, loose clothing for warmth, and protection. Layering allows you to accommodate the bodies constantly changing temperature.
- Wear proper footwear that provides warmth, dryness, as well as ample ankle support.
- Learn the skills needed to play the sport correctly.
- Take a lesson (or several) from a qualified instructor especially in sports like skiing. Learning how to fall correctly and safely can reduce the risk of injury.
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after activities.
- Avoid participating in sports when you are in pain or exhausted.
- Seek medical attention immediately if you are injured.