Winter sports safety tips

Colorful image of snowboarder in red jacket sliding down the slope

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The Pacific Northwest is a paradise for winter sports. But are you in shape for the slopes? Make sure you’re ready for a safe and healthy season with these tips.

Always wear a helmet. Safety should be your number one priority when it comes to skiing and snowboarding, said Dr. Pontus Oberg, a rehabilitation physician at The Sports Medicine Clinic. That means wearing a helmet. And be aware of your surroundings on the slopes; colliding with another skier is a common cause of injury. As a lifelong skier, Dr. Oberg shares one of his hard-earned lessons: Look uphill!

Get in shape. Skiing and snowboarding can be hard on the body, Dr. Oberg said. You should get ready for opening day by strengthening your legs, back and hips. “Explosive plyometric” exercises can help prepare joints and muscles for hurtling down a mountainside. These jumping exercises exert maximum force on your muscles for a short period of time. Engaging in a year-round cardiovascular exercise program also will help you prepare for longs days on the slopes. And don’t forget to stretch.

Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water or electrolyte drinks can help prevent muscle cramping on the slopes. And remember to bring snacks to keep up energy throughout the day. Dress for success. Check the weather forecast and dress appropriately. It’s not bad idea to have a change of dry clothes with you, Dr. Oberg said. Hypothermia can set in quickly when you’re wet.

Don’t forget the sunscreen. You can still get burned when it’s cloudy, especially when you’re at higher altitudes, Dr. Oberg said. Use sunscreen to protect your skin and wear goggles to protect your eyes.

Hold your poles properly. The Sports Medicine Clinic treats many patients during ski season with thumb injuries, Dr. Oberg said. These “skier’s thumb” injuries often occur when people fall on an outstretched hand while still holding onto their poles. Dr. Oberg’s advice: don’t strap your hand into the poles. He removes the straps from his poles so he doesn’t have to think about it.

For information or appointments at The Sports Medicine Clinic, call 206.668.6100 or visit

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