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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Recovering from Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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Dr. Chuck Bush-Joseph from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and Steve Kashul talk with Jacob Holler about his cardiac event, what he learned from that experience and his remarkable recovery. Jacob Holler is a Physical Therapist and Clinical Director at ATI Physical Therapy in Abingdon, MD.

Sports Medicine Weekly on 670 The Score

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Study: A Daily Baby Aspirin Has No Benefit For Healthy Older People

Daily low-dose aspirin can be of help to older people with an elevated risk for a heart attack. But for healthy older people, the risk outweighs the benefit.

Many healthy Americans take a baby aspirin every day to reduce their risk of having a heart attack, getting cancer and even possibly dementia. But is itreally a good idea?

Results released Sunday from a major study of low-dose aspirin contain a disappointing answer for older, otherwise healthy people.

“We found there was no discernible benefit of aspirin on prolonging independent, healthy life for the elderly,” says Anne Murray, a geriatrician and epidemiologist at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, who helped lead the study.

The study involved more than 19,000 people ages 65 and older in the United States and Australia. The results were published in three papers in the New England Journal of Medicine.

There is still strong evidence that a daily baby aspirin can reduce the risk that many people who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke will suffer another attack.

And there is some evidence that daily low-dose aspirin may help people younger than 70 who have at least a 10 percent risk of having a heart attack avoid a heart attack or stroke, according to the latest recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

But for older, healthy people, “the risks outweigh the benefits for taking low-dose aspirin,” Murray says.

The primary risk is bleeding. The study confirmed that a daily baby aspirin increases the risk for serious, potentially life-threatening bleeding.

Surprisingly, those who took daily aspirin also appeared to be more likely to die overall, apparently from an increased risk of succumbing to cancer. That was especially unexpected given previous evidence that aspirin might reduce the risk for colorectal cancer.


Related: Panel Says Aspirin Lowers Heart Attack Risk For Some


The researchers stressed, however, that the cancer finding might have been a fluke. There’s also a possibility that any colorectal cancer benefit wasn’t seen because the subjects had only been followed for about five years.

Regardless, the findings raise serious questions as to whether otherwise healthy older people should routinely take low-dose aspirin.

“A lot of people read, ‘Well, aspirin is good for people who have heart problems. Maybe I should take it, even if they haven’t really had a heart attack,’ ” Murray says. But “for a long time there’s been a need to establish appropriate criteria for when healthy people — elderly people — need aspirin.”

That’s why the researchers launched their study, called ASPREE, in 2010. It involved 19,114 older people, with 16,703 in Australia and 2,411 in the United States. The U.S. portion included white volunteers ages 70 and older, and African-Americans and Hispanics subjects ages 65 and older.

Participants took either 100 milligrams of aspirin every day or a placebo. People in the study were followed for an average of 4.7 years.

“We were hoping that an inexpensive, very accessible medication might be something that we could recommend to elderly to maintain their independence but also decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease,” Murray says.

But based on the findings, Dr. Evan Hadley of the National Institute on Aging, which helped fund the study, says any elderly people taking aspirin or thinking about it should think twice.

“This gives pause and a reason for older people and their physician to think carefully about the decision whether to take low-dose aspirin regularly or not,” Hadley says. “And in many cases the right answer may be: Not.”

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Cardiac rehabilitation: Getting more fit may mean easing into HIT!

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Globally, heart disease still is the number one killer among chronic diseases. Exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programs are an effective strategy for helping heart patients improve their health and reduce their risk for heart-related deaths. CR programs currently have patients perform moderate-intensity continuous exercise (MICE).

This traditionally involves walking, jogging, or stationary cycling at a comfortable pace for 30-60 minutes. In this study, the investigators measured fitness levels in heart patients performing a progression of higher-intensity interval training (HIT).

This HIT approach involved short bouts of exercise performed at near maximal effort, followed by recovery periods of slower exercise. HIT outcomes were compared to those from traditional MICE. A total of 772 patients participated and were assigned to HIT or MICE groups for 26 weeks of training; group assignment was balanced according to age and sex.

Results showed that progressive HIT improved fitness levels significantly more than did MICE in patients participating in CR. In addition, HIT improved several other risk factors for heart disease, including depression, more than did MICE. These findings may enhance how exercise training is provided in health care to improve the lives of heart patients.

For more information, view the abstract

American College of Sports Medicine

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