Tips to Avoid Snow-Related Injuries

man shoveling snow

By Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush

The simple act of shoveling can cause serious injury if you aren’t careful.  In fact, an estimated 11,500 people visit the ER each year due to snow shoveling alone. If you are fit, you are at a reduced risk, but not entirely safe. Here are three of the most common potential health risks from snow removal and how to prevent them this weekend and throughout the winter:

Heart Attack

They call it ‘heart attack snow’ for a reason. Shoveling accounts for an estimated 100 deaths per year, most due to heart attacks.  That’s because shoveling or pushing a snow blower can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate. The cold air triggers constriction of the blood vessels and decreases oxygen to the heart.


Those at risk of a heart attack during cold outdoor activities include:

  • Those with a prior heart attack
  • Those with known heart disease
  • Those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Smokers
  • Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle

Follow these tips to protect your heart: 

  • Don’t shovel right after you wake up. Wait at least 30 minutes.
  • Don’t drink coffee before or after shoveling.
  • Warm up your muscles with simple exercises before starting.
  • Work slowly and in small 15 minute increments.
  • Push the snow instead of lifting and tossing.
  • Opt for a snow blower or ask for shoveling assistance.
  • If you experience chest discomfort, shortness of breath or discomfort in your arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach could be signs of a heart attack. Seek a doctor immediately.

Back Strain

Snow shoveling is the leading cause of back and neck injuries during the snowy winter months. To protect yours, keep these tips in mind before attacking the snow:

  • Choose an ergonomic shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable handle length will minimize painful bending
  • Use a small, lightweight, plastic shovel to help reduce the weight that you are moving
  • stretch your low back and hamstrings (the large muscles in the back of the thigh) with some gentle stretching exercises.
  • Always face towards the snow pile and have your shoulders and hips squarely facing it.
  • Bend at the hips, not the low back.
  • Bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight.
  • Stop immediately if you begin to tire or feel any pain in your back or neck.

Finger Injuries from Snow Blowers

Since 2003, roughly 9,000 people have lost at least one finger to improper use of a snow blower. The most common cause is by unclogging the snow while the machine is still running.  Please follow these safety tips:

  • Use safety devices that typically come with a snow blower
  • Make sure the blades completely stop before clearing the clogged snow
  • Use an object, like a broom handle, to remove the snow

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Commons Injuries that hold us back at the Gym

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Dr. Nik Verma from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and Steve Kashul talk with Cole Cruz from Coalition Strength and Conditioning about causes of injury that hold us back and how they may be different from current perception: shoulder impingement, lower back pain and knee pain.

Cole Cruz-Lauren s Favorites-0021.jpgCole Cruz is the Owner of Coalition Strength and Conditioning in Chicago. with the following credentials:

  • CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER
  • CERTIFIED FASCIAL STRETCH THERAPIST-1
  • MASTER OF SCIENCE, APPLIED EXERCISE SCIENCE – STRENGTH & CONDITIONING
  • MASTER OF SCIENCE, SPORT & EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY
  • CERTIFIED POLIQUIN PERFORMANCE SPECIALIST-2 (PICP)
  • GRAY INSTITUTE CERTIFIED IN APPLIED FUNCTIONAL SCIENCE (CAFS)

Coalition Strength & Conditioning

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Ask the Doctor!

This regular segment of ‘Ask the Doctor’ addresses questions sent in by Sports Medicine Weekly followers.

In this segment Dr. Cole answers questions about:

  • Shoulder Arthritis: Treatment alternatives; when is replacement advisable
  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS): Treatment & Prevention.. More>>
  • Sciatica: Treatment alternatives

Click here to have your question addressed live by Dr. Brian Cole on an upcoming show.

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Ask the Doctor!

This regular segment of ‘Ask the Doctor’ addresses questions sent in by Sports Medicine Weekly followers. In this segment we have Dr. Gregory Nicholson from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, addressing questions about activity expectations after shoulder replacement surgery and recovery expectations after spinal fusion surgery.

Dr. Nicholson specializes in shoulder and elbow surgery, utilizing state-of-the-art arthroscopic and open surgical techniques to treat sports-related, traumatic, arthritic, and occupational conditions of the shoulder and elbow.

A graduate from Indiana University School of Medicine, Dr. Nicholson completed his internship and orthopedic residency at University Hospital of Cleveland and completed a fellowship in shoulder and elbow surgery at the New York Orthopaedic Hospital at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.

Dr. Nicholson is involved in the design of an advanced shoulder replacement system. gregory nicholson mdHe is a consultant to differing orthopedic companies and has designed instruments and implants for shoulder and elbow surgery. He is the principal investigator for funded studies on rotator cuff repair augmentation, and shoulder arthroplasty.

He is Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He is a member of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons. More…


Click here to have your question addressed live on an upcoming show of Sports Medicine Weekly on 670TheScore.

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