Cold Winter Weather: The X Factor

Northern Nevada is a year-round playground for sports and physical activity enthusiasts, which of course, we love. But those of us who brave the elements to train, race or play during winter need to be aware that cold temperatures increase the risk of injury—especially if you’re not properly prepared. Dr. Richard Mullins, a sports medicine specialist at Great Basin Orthopaedics, shares three tips to help you remain injury-free while staying active during the winter months.

Tip #1:  Start Training Months In Advance (When Possible)

Sure, the official start to winter is just days away, but the advice to begin a stretching and training program for your sport(s) of choice a few months before your season hits full stride is true all year long. (Better a little late than never for you winter sport types!)

Dr. Mullins weighs in with some advice for skiers and snowboarders in particular: “These sports are leg dependent. Make sure to do stretches and strength training with a bent knee motion. Typically, it’s not something people think about prior to ski season.”

Because exercise in cold temperatures takes more effort (especially for your heart and certain muscle groups), cross training is a smart way to gain overall strength. It is ideal to start cross training months in advance, but you can start feeling results in just a few weeks.

Tip #2: Tune Up Your Equipment (With Help From The Pros)

If your winter sport relies heavily upon equipment, listen up. (That means you skiers, snowboarders and cyclists.) “Get your equipment checked out by a professional at least once a season,” says Dr. Mullins. “Many of the skiing injuries I see are because the bindings are too tight. If they won’t let go in a precarious situation, something else has to give—you.”

Tip #3: Layers Are Important (And Not Just Because Your Mom Said So)

Everyone knows that wearing layered clothing is important for outdoor winter activities—and the reasons go beyond your comfort and your mom’s advice. 

“Muscle and ligament damage occurs more frequently in cold weather,” Dr. Mullins says. “By wearing lighter layers and removing as needed, you can get a better sense of how far to push yourself without injury.”

Also, wearing fewer but heavier pieces of clothing can generate body heat quickly. When you heat up and sweat, and then cool down, the wet clothes and cold air temperatures can cause frostbite and hypothermia to set in. Nerve endings can die, causing more problems down the road.

If Winter Bites, Bite Back

Though our goal is to eliminate winter sport injuries, they cannot be avoided altogether. For help if you do get injured, contact the team with expertise to assess, heal and get you back to the slopes, or wherever winter takes you.