CareNow® - December 28, 2023

Winter sports can be a great way to stay active during the cold weather months. In many states, snow on the ground means more people are enjoying activities like snow skiing, snowboarding, sledding, tobogganing, and ice skating.

Unfortunately, it also means more winter sports injuries. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, there were more than 76,000 injuries from snow skiing and more than 48,000 ice skating-related injuries in 2018.

Most of these injuries looked like sprains, strains, fractures in dislocations, although some resulted from head injuries or other incidents.

How to stay active in the winter

With the cold weather, many people struggle to stay active during the winter months. Short days and cold temps may cause you to take a second look at the couch, but moving your body is essential to staying healthy any time of year, especially during cold and flu season.

Finding a winter activity you enjoy like skiing, sledding, or ice skating is a great way to motivate yourself to stay active. If you're forcing yourself to participate in a winter sport you don't enjoy, it will be even more difficult to get up and move. Before you head out for your winter activity, check out the most common winter sports injuries and what you can do to stay safe.

When do winter sports injuries most commonly occur?

In most cases, sports injuries happen at the end of the day. Most people tend to overexert themselves during the day and finish low on energy and awareness. During the winter, the days are shorter, meaning it gets dark outside earlier. This can make it difficult for skiers and snowboarders to see what's in front of them.

How to ensure your health for winter sports

Before engaging in winter sports activities, it's important that you prioritize your health and well-being. Whether you need a routine checkup before hitting the slopes or require medical attention for a winter sports injury, CareNow® is equipped to address your healthcare needs.

Why CareNow® for physicals?

  • Convenient Locations: With more than 225 locations throughout the country, finding a CareNow® clinic near you is easy and convenient, giving you accessibility to quality healthcare.
  • Extended Hours: We understand you have a busy schedule. With clinics open after hours and on weekends, you can receive the care you need at a time that suits you.
  • Web Check-In Feature: To streamline your experience, CareNow® provides a Web Check-In feature, allowing you to check in before your visit. This minimizes wait times, enabling you to wait from anywhere, and making healthcare more efficient.

From annual physicals to sick visits, the experienced healthcare providers at CareNow® are dedicated to giving you quality and convenient care when you need it most.

Learn More About Urgent Care Services

What are the most common winter sports injuries?

Even if you take proper precautions, winter sports can be dangerous and result in injury. While the chance of injury is relatively low and the benefit of exercise is worth the risk, you should know about the most common injuries associated with winter sports and what you can do to avoid them if possible.

Skiing and snowboarding injuries

When it comes to skiing and snowboarding, horrible falls and unruly skis can result in knee injuries. Many people also put their arms out before they fall causing shoulder dislocations and injuries to the rotator cuff. Concussions caused by a nasty fall are also common for skiers and snowboarders.

Sledding injuries

Head and limb injuries from running into rocks or trees or colliding with another sled at the bottom of a hill are most common when sledding. Debris and hazards on sledding runs can also cause sledders to be thrown from their sleds.


Hockey is one of the most dangerous professional sports around, so it's no surprise that playing it on an amateur level can also cause injuries. Players are at risk of pulled muscles, ligament tears, and bruising from colliding with other players or equipment. Although rare, it is also possible for hockey players to suffer from broken bones, broken teeth, or concussions.

How are winter sports injuries treated?

The treatment for winter sports injuries depends on the specific injury and its severity. Here's a look at how to treat some of the most common winter sports injuries.


The best way to recover from a concussion is to get plenty of physical and mental rest. It's recommended that you limit activities from the first two days following a concussion. You should always seek medical care if you've suffered a head injury of any kind. 

Slowly getting back into normal activities, monitored by medical providers, can help prevent setbacks. Symptom management involves medications and therapeutic interventions to address pain, sleep disturbances, and cognitive or emotional challenges.

Sprain or strain

If you've sprained or strained a muscle, your best course of action is to put an ice pack on the affected area within the first 48 hours. You may also need to take pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Dislocated shoulder

In most cases, you will want a medical provider to move the shoulder bones back into position. Once this is done, your shoulder may be immobilized with a splint or sling for several days. Although rare, surgery may be needed to help relocate the shoulder.

Rehabilitation for a dislocated shoulder involves a gradual progression of exercises, typically allowing a return to sport around 6 months to 1 year. For winter sports injuries like concussions, immediate removal from play is crucial, with the severity determining the duration of rest and evaluation required. Traditionally, shoulder dislocations have been treated with three weeks of immobilization, followed by a rigorous physical therapy program.

Ankle sprain

A sprained ankle can be extremely painful and difficult to use, especially if it's started swelling. It's recommended that you use the RICE method which includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Knee injuries

Knee injuries are common, especially in activities that subject the knees to significant stress, such as skiing and skating. The knees, being crucial for movement, are susceptible to injuries like torn ligaments, torn meniscus, and fractured kneecaps due to the strain put on them during these activities.

Treatment varies depending on the specific type of knee injury. For instance, torn ligaments or meniscus may require non-surgical interventions like rest, physical therapy, or braces, while more severe cases might necessitate surgical procedures.

In the case of a fractured kneecap, surgical options like open reduction-internal fixation (ORIF) may be considered. Regardless of the injury, it is advisable to avoid putting excessive weight on the affected knee and to follow medical guidance for optimal recovery.

How to prevent winter sports injuries

The best way to practice winter sports safety is by staying alert and stopping when you are in pain or feel yourself getting tired.

Wear the appropriate and properly fitting protective gear for the sport you are participating in. Helmets for skiing and snowboarding are essential. Warm clothing using a layered approach helps keep you comfortable throughout the day when weather conditions may be rapidly changing.

It's also important that you never participate in an activity alone. Find at least one other person who will go with you in case of an emergency. You should also always bring a phone with you should you need to call for help.

Always abide by the rules of the sport and the location you're at. If you see certain areas closed or marked off, stay away from them. Keep an eye out for warnings about impending weather and severe drops in temperature as well.

You should also stay hydrated before, during, and after activities. Dehydration can cause you to become weak or disillusioned — a dangerous condition when you're in a high-traffic area.

Before you head out to participate in winter sports this season, it's a good idea to get a thorough checkup with a medical provider to ensure you're healthy enough for your planned activities.

At CareNow, we offer annual physicals as well as sick visits should you get injured during your sport. With more than 225 locations throughout the country, our goal is to provide you with quality, convenient care.

We offer a Web Check-In feature that allows you to check in prior to your visit so you can wait from anywhere. To find the CareNow clinic near you, visit our website.

We’re also delighted to announce our accomplishment as an Accredited Urgent Care Center recognized by the Urgent Care Association (UCA), which underscores our steadfast commitment to delivering exceptional patient care.

Find a CareNow® Near You