Let it Snow (But Take Precautions!)

Oh the weather outside is frightful,

But the fire is so delightful,

And since we've no place to go,

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Sure, it’s all fun and games in Northern Nevada unless you have to do one of two potentially dangerous things: walk on ice or shovel snow. So the docs at Great Basin Orthopaedics, who see their fair share of snow/ice victims, have some tips to help you become much safer as it pertains to the falling white stuff.

Read on for winter-specific advice that will keep you wishing for snow! Or at least kind of okay with it.

Walking on Ice

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shares that “injuries from falling on ice can include anything from back pain to concussions, and are particularly serious for those over 50, whose bones are often more brittle and susceptible to breakage.” Additional injuries can include muscle and ligament strains, herniated discs or compression fractures.

As injuries from falling on ice account for about 1 million injuries and 17,000 deaths every year, we thought it was time to share some tips for walking. Yes, walking. That thing we’ve been doing for most of our lives, but that is very different when frozen water is involved.

Let’s start with some tips from our tuxedoed friends from the Arctic. The funny way that penguins walk is functional, in addition to being delightful to watch. It’s simple: Point your feet outward, legs apart and then walk flat-footed, taking short steps. Click here if you’d rather watch the animated video demonstrating this, complete with music.

GBO’s Dr. Richard Hayes says that being cautious is even more important if you’re pregnant, on crutches or anything else that affects your normal movement.

In addition to our newly perfected penguin walk, we want to keep our hands out of our pockets when we’re out and about so we can use our arms for balance. This advice can be a challenge in Northern Nevada’s cold winter air, so next tip? Invest in a good pair of gloves.

If you do find yourself falling, Dr. Hayes recommends tucking and rolling. “Don’t use your hands to catch yourself or you risk breaking an arm or wrist,” he says. “Instead, try to land on the fleshy part of your body, rather than a knee or spine.”

These additional tips seem like just good common sense, but they’re worth emphasizing this time of year:  

  • Give yourself extra time to get places in the winter, whether walking or driving.
  • You’ll need that extra time so you can walk (and drive) slower than normal.
  • Make sure your shoes (and tires) have good traction. We love these nifty shoe grips you can keep in your car until you need them. Pro tip: If you’re in Reno, we just found these at the Reno Costco for less than $10!.
  • Stay on designated walkways. And try to stick to sidewalks that have been maintained (this includes residential neighborhoods).
  • Use the handrails. That’s why they’re there.

As an added precaution, you can carry salt with you to spread on the snow or ice, as Chemistry.com shares that salt melts ice by lowering the freezing point of water.

Shovel Fun

Now that we’ve given you the intel you need to walk safely, let’s take on another back-breaking (hopefully not literally) winter chore: shoveling the driveway.

If you’ve lived in Northern Nevada for any length of time, there’s a good chance you’ve taken a shovel to snow at least once. However, there’s a good chance you’ve been doing it wrong. LifeHacker.com shares these tips for shoveling the snow without breaking your body.

  • Either shovel snow as it falls (every few inches), or wait for the snow to stop and shovel in layers. Only shovel as much snow as you’re comfortable lifting. Seriously. This is not the time for your Hercules imitation.
  • Clear your driveway in two stages. Push the snow from the center of your driveway to the outer edges with a wide, plastic snow shovel (it’s less likely to catch on your pavement), then you can use a metal scoop shovel to lift the rest out of the driveway.
  • Keep off the snow before you clear it. The more you walk or drive on the snow and pack it in, the harder it is to shovel.

They also suggest the time-proven method of paying the neighbor kids to do it for you. After all, their bones are probably not as fragile as yours! If you are already planning to shovel, you could also win the Good Neighbor Award by shoveling the sidewalks around your house (rather than just your own). 

The CDC shares these additional precautions we need to take in winter:

  • Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: a tightly woven, preferably wind-resistant coat or jacket; inner layers of light, warm clothing; mittens; hats; scarves; and waterproof boots.
  • Sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy patches.
  • Work slowly when doing outside chores.
  • Take a buddy and an emergency kit when you are participating in outdoor recreation.
  • Carry a cell phone.

If, even with all your precautions, the winter does get you down — literally, as in from injury — give us a call at 775-786-1600 so we can discuss your best course of action.