Thursday, 22 July 2010 7:29 P.M.
Let Snow Shoveling Ruin Your Winter Wonderland
surgeons offer snow removal safety tips
man is seen shoveling snow.
Ill. -- Snow shoveling tends to be an unpleasant task—this
mundane seasonal chore combines heavy lifting and cold weather,
resulting in possible injuries to the back, shoulder muscles if
shovelers do not take the proper precautions. The American Academy
of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has recommendations to help you stay
safe while clearing snow so you can still have some winter fun.
to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission:
- In 2008,
more than 70,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms,
doctors' offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries
sustained while shoveling or otherwise removing ice and snow manually.
- In that
same year, nearly 15,000 people were injured when operating snowblowers.
- Types of injuries
can include sprains and strains, particularly in the back and
shoulders, as well as lacerations and finger amputations.
snow involves a lot of bending and heavy lifting, particularly in
wet, heavy snow," says Michael F. Schafer, MD, orthopaedic
surgeon 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."
offers the following tips to prevent injuries while shoveling and
using a snowblower:
with your doctor.
Because this activity places high stress on the heart, speak with
your physician first. If you have a medical condition or do not
exercise regularly, consider hiring someone to remove the snow.
- Dress appropriately.
layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and
insulation. It is also 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.
- See what you
are shoveling/snow blowing.
Make sure that your hat or scarf does not block your vision. Watch
for ice patches and uneven surfaces. Avoid falls by wearing shoes
or boots that have slip-resistant soles.
- Clear snow
early and often.
Begin when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid
trying to clear packed, heavy snow.
up your muscles.
Shoveling can be a vigorous activity. Before you begin, warm up
your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise. Be sure to include
your leg muscles—heart attacks and similar injuries are
sometimes the result of working the smaller muscles of your arms
and back while not using the large muscle groups of the legs.
frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration. If
you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs
of a heart attack, seek emergency care, such as by calling 9-1-1.
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.
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
not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side.
This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.
stick your hands or feet in the snow blower!
If snow becomes too 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.
not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running. Shut
off the engine if you must walk away from the machine.
the snow blower cord.
If you are operating an electric snow blower, be aware of where
the power cord is at all times, so you do not trip and fall.
fuel before starting the snow blower.
Never add fuel when the engine is running or hot. Do not operate
the machine in an enclosed area.
the instruction manual. Prior
to using a snow blower, read the instruction manual for specific
safety hazards, unfamiliar features, and whenever attempting to
repair or maintain the snow blower.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
man is pictured snowblowing his driveway.