For Immediate Release

All Work and Snow Play: How to Stay Safe on Your Snow Day
Orthopaedic surgeons offer commentary to help avoid injuries from the storm of the year

Rosemont, IL

With a highly anticipated blizzard making its way across the Midwest and traveling on to the East Coast, much of the country is preparing for a good old fashioned snow day. Two feet of snow expected in some areas, so many people may end up playing and sledding in the snow, while others focus on the vigorous task of snow removal. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has experts available for interview, and offers advice to keep you and your children injury-free.


AAOS EXPERT ADVICE: "Shoveling snow involves a lot of bending and heavy lifting, particularly in wet, heavy snow," said Michael F. Schafer, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and spokesperson for the AAOS. "It may be especially vigorous for people who do not regularly exercise, as their backs, shoulder and arm muscles may not be prepared for that level of activity."


  • Clear snow early and often. Begin when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid trying to clear packed, heavy snow.
  • Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Consider buying a shovel that is specially designed to prevent too much stooping. Space your hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage.
  • Push the snow instead of lifting it, as much as you can. If you must lift, take small amounts of snow, and lift it with your legs: Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift by straightening your legs, without bending at the waist. Then walk to where you want to dump the snow; holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.
  • Never stick your hands or feet in the snow blower! If snow becomes impacted, stop the engine and wait at least five seconds. Use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. Beware of the recoil of the motor and blades after the machine has been turned off.


AAOS EXPERT ADVICE: "It's so important for participants to stay alert and to take breaks when they are feeling overly tired from sports like skiing, sledding or snowboarding,"said Thomas J. Nordstrom, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at the Center for Orthopaedic Care in New Jersey and AAOS spokesperson. "To avoid winter sports injury, people should keep their body as warm as possible, be in good shape, and follow the rules of the sport."


  • Avoid sledding near or on public streets. Sledding should be done only in designated and approved areas where there are no obstacles in the sledding path. Speeding down hills in parks that are not designed for sledding puts you at risk to be hit by cars and trucks or slam into parked vehicles, curbs, and fences.
  • Sit in a forward-facing position when sledding and steer using your feet or the rope steering handles for better control of the sled. Urge children to wear a helmet while sledding.
  • Parents or adults must supervise children in sledding areas to make sure the sledding path is safe and there are not too many sledders on the hill at the same time (or at the end of the run) to avoid collisions.
  • Be sure to carry a cell phone in case an emergency arises, and call for help if needed.


AAOS EXPERT ADVICE: "It takes only minutes for exposed skin to become frostbitten if the temperature falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind is blowing at 20 miles per hour or more," said Rachel Rohde, MD , orthopaedic surgeon at the William Beaumont Hospital in Michigan and spokesperson for the AAOS. "Your hands, fingers, feet, toes, and ears are especially susceptible, so you need to take special care protecting them."

Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation. It also is important to wear the appropriate head coverings, as well as mittens or gloves and thick, warm socks. Take a break if you feel yourself getting too hot or too cold.

  • Check the weather for snow and ice conditions prior to participating. Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature to ensure safety while outdoors. Skiers, sledders and snowboarders should make adjustments for icy conditions, deep snow powder, wet snow, and adverse weather conditions.
  • Avoid frostbite:
  • Protect your head, hands and feet. Substantial heat loss occurs through the scalp, so head coverings are vital. Mittens are warmer than gloves, and two pair of socks (wool over lightweight cotton) will help keep your feet warm.
  • Don't drink or smoke before going out into the cold. If you plan on being out in the cold for a prolonged period, don't drink or smoke. Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine leave the skin more prone to thermal injury.
  • If you get wet, get inside! Remove wet clothing as quickly as possible.
  • Check yourself every half-hour or so for signs of frostbite. If your toes, fingers, ears or other body parts feel numb, get inside.

© 1995-2011 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "All Rights Reserved." This website and its contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission. "American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons" and its associated seal and "American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons" and its logo are all registered U.S. trademarks and may not be used without written permission.