The winter months can be a festive and fun time of year. However, they can also bring many hazards that lead to hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder injuries. Snow shoveling and removal are strenuous and sometimes risky activities that can lead to injury.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2018, more than 137,000 people were treated in emergency rooms, doctors' offices, and clinics for injuries that happened while shoveling or using snowblowers.
The most common injuries associated with snow removal include wrist sprains and strains, as well as hand lacerations and finger amputations.
Here are some simple safety measures to protect yourself from potential injury.
Wear gloves with skid resistant material – One simple strategy to combat the snow is to be sure your gloves and/or mittens have a skid resistant material on the palm and fingers. This provides an adequate grip on your shovel to prevent unnecessary slipping of your equipment.
Wear gloves that provide warmth but also allow adequate motion of your fingers – If your gloves are too thick, it can be difficult to have a successful grasp of your shovel or snowblower. It may be beneficial to ‘break in’ new gloves to ensure your fingers move freely.
When possible, push snow out of the way instead of lifting the snow – You can put yourself at less risk for injury if you avoid lifting the snow. Keeping your arms close to your body to push the snow is generally a safer way to move the snow and avoid hurting wrists, elbows, shoulders or even your back.
When lifting snow, avoid a full shovel – Be sure to scoop smaller, lighter amounts and pace yourself. When you lift a comfortable amount snow, there is less strain on your hands, wrists and arms.
Pace yourself and take breaks – Break up your snow shoveling by taking short breaks and allow your body to rest. Light stretching during breaks and drinking plenty of water will also assist in reducing your risk of injury.
Snowblowers are the 4th most frequent mechanism of injury for finger, hand and upper extremity amputations. Aside from amputations, snowblower injuries can damage bone, soft tissue, nerves, nail beds, and tendons. The majority of snowblower injuries occur when individuals attempt to remove snow clogs with their hands, and it is typically the dominant hand that is injured.
Do NOT remove clogs from snowblowers with your hands – Snowblowers are wonderful on heavy snowfall days. However, they also come with risks. If your snowblower clogs, you can use a broomstick, stick, or even a shovel handle to remove the clog. Never use your hands.
Be sure the snowblower is completely off and the blades have stopped moving before removing clogs – Even if you are using an object other than your hand to remove a clog, do not attempt any technique until the blower is completely off and the blades have settled fully. Even if the power is OFF, removing a clog with your hands can result in a rapid recoil, which may cause severe finger injuries. The clogged snow can prevent all the rotational force in the blades to be exhausted. Therefore, when the clog is removed, the force is released and the blades will move.
If you suffer any serious injury, immediately visit your nearest emergency room. For minor, but painful injuries, call and make an appointment. Even minor injuries need to be seen and treated by a medical professional to assure proper healing time.
For more information or to request an appointment, please contact Dr. Patrick McDaid, M.D. at www.mcdaidorthohand.com/contact.