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Winter Tips
Falling is no laughing matter.


Each Winterlude, many people are hospitalized by seemingly innocent falls. During my recent visit to the plaster clinic in one of Ottawa's hospitals (yes, a broken wrist from falling while skating), the doctors told me that they refer to this festival as "Fracturelude"... as upwards of 50 injuries related to the festival come through their doors every day! 


As in most health concerns, prevention is your best course of action. Once a person learns how to fall, they greatly reduce their chance of serious injury. How can an ice skater, especially an adult who doesn’t want to fall, fall safely?


Falling on ice can cause some injuries and pain. If you fall properly you can prevent yourself from getting any kind of injury. There are a few techniques you can follow to prevent yourself from getting hurt.


  • After falling you have to get back up safely without falling again.

  • Wear gloves, wrist guards, knee, or elbow pads. These will protect you from getting hurt if you fall.

  • Put your hands on your waist or in front of you when you are skating.

  • Practice falling. Try to fall without hurting yourself. First try falling without skates and then move on to fall with skates. Try falling on different speeds with your skates on.

  • Bend your knees and go into a dip position. If you know you are about to fall just go into a dip position.

  • Fall to the side and lean forward as you fall on the ice. This will lower the chances of you getting injured.

  • Recover from your fall. Turn over on your hands and knees.

  • Take one foot and place it between your hands.

  • Take the other foot and place it between your hands. Applying pressure to your toes and/or using your toe picks will help you so you won’t slide.

  • Push yourself up and stand up on the ice.


If you are unfortunate enough to be injured, recovery after your cast is removed is also an important stage. We at the Sports & Spinal Injury Clinic have a successful history of helping to effectively return you as quickly as possible "back to normal". 

Single Leg Balance Test... Simple, Reliable & now Validated


At SSIC we believe the Single Leg Balance test is a reliable and valid test for predicting ankle sprains. Since we can (to some extent) successfully predict susceptibility to ankle injury in athletes using this simple test, we feel it is beneficial for all our patients to take.


If they do not do well in the test, we can inform them that if they don't initiate a proprioceptive rehab exercise program to improve their balance and if they don't tape their ankle or wear a brace, their risk of an ankle injury goes up by almost 9 folds!


At SSIC, we also use the Single Leg Balance test on patients with Lumbo-pelvic pain to find any significant asymmetries and deficiencies in balance. As an alternative to learning more complicated "core exercises", we believe patients will benefit from the more easily learned practise of standing on one leg with eyes open and eyes closed.


The following video is a good exercise to strengthen one leg balance.


"In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, more than 5600 Canadians of all ages were admitted to hospital with serious injuries related to winter sports and recreational activities. Skiing and snowboarding accounted for the largest proportion of serious injuries. (Report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information). Canadians need to be aware when participating in winter activities to follow safe practices and wear the appropriate equipment." 

- Globe and Mail article by Sheryl Ubelacker 


The following activities are what we like to do... or have to do... during the long Canadian winter months. Taking a little care and practising some common sense will help us avoid injuries related to these activities.

Most common injuries: 
  • Back injuries


One of the more common causes of back injuries during the winter months. Wrong body mechanics can put undue stress on the lower back leading to painful muscle strain and possibly more series injuries such as herniated discs or disc degeneration


  • Choose the right shovel: curved or adjustable handles will minimize painful bending

  • Warm up muscles: brisk walk or march in place for 5-10 minutes, (cool, tight muscles are more prone to injury)

  • Start early: try to clear snow early to avoid dealing with packed heavy snow

  • Pace yourself: take frequent brakes and keep hydrated

  • Always face towards what you intend to lift

  • Push snow instead of lifting

  • If you have to lift, squat with legs apart, knees bend, back straight and lift with your legs

  • Shovel small amounts

  • Do not throw snow over your shoulders or to the side since it requires you to twist which stresses your back, instead pivot your whole body.

  • Walk to a new location instead or over-reaching

  • Check with your doctor as shovelling places high stress on the heart:

  • Take frequent breaks, drink fluids to prevent dehydration

  • If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, stop and get help

  • - If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, consider hiring someone else to shovel


Read the Globe and Mail's original article:
The secrets to safe snow shovelling 

Alpine Skiing
Most common injuries: 
  • Ligament sprains particularly the knees, head, shoulder and thumb


  • Seek professional instruction as injuries are more common with beginners

  • Check your equipment regularly especially your bindings, your boots should be a snug fit

  • Consider wearing a helmet

  • Warm-up And cool down: stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps and calves before and after skiing

  • Stop when you feel tired; you are more likely to injure yourself when tired

  • Be alert to obstacles and other skiers

Most common injuries: 
  • Head, wrist and knees


  • Make sure your skates are a good fit and have good arch support

  • Wear a helmet and wrist guards

  • Warm-up and cool down; stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps and calves before and after skating

  • Be mindful of your posture to improve balance and help prevent falls

  • Stop when you feel tired

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