The 5 Most Dangerous Winter Sports

It's winter sports season, the perfect time to get the whole family outdoors and exercising. But with winter sports come winter sports injuries.

The kids are itching to go outside, you’re tired of the dry indoor air and there’s a fresh layer of powder on the slopes. It’s winter sports season, the perfect time to get the whole family outdoors and exercising. But with winter sports come winter sports injuries.

According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 5 favorite outdoor winter sports are accountable for more than half a million hospitalizations and emergency department visits in 2007 alone.

Known for its speed and toughness, ice hockey is a game played by more than 500,000 kids in the US, according to USA Hockey. When proper equipment and training is in place, though, injuries are not nearly as common as in other sports. Most injuries relating to ice hockey are bumps and bruises, sprains, and other soft-tissue injuries.

For many people who grow up in the northern part of the United States, there’s a photo of them somewhere as toddlers on ice skates, wrapped in layers and looking like a marshmallow. But as people grow up, they lose those protective layers when they go ice skating, leaving them more vulnerable to injuries. Concussions, ankle sprains, and hip injuries can all happen when on the rink. Figure skaters, in particular, are vulnerable to overuse injuries such as stress fractures and tendonitis.

One would think the deep snow on the slopes would create soft landings for the skiing set, but ski-related injuries created more than $4 billion in legal and health care costs in 2007. Knee injuries are most common because of all the impact on the joints. Shoulder and arm injuries are also common, as people put their arms out when they fall. Perhaps the après ski set has it right—just stick to the hot cocoa and nice sweaters in the lodge.

Many of the same injuries common to skiing are common in snowboarding, and often come from falls or improper warm-up. While everyone wants to be Shaun White this time of year, reminding your budding X-Gamers that even the best wear helmets is important to keeping them safe on the slopes.

Dashing through the snow… on the way to the emergency room. The majority of sledding injuries occur in kids 14 and under, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The cost of sledding injuries is equal to that of skiing injuries ($4 billion in 2007), but the injuries that are caused tend to be much more severe. Collisions with other sledders or permanent objects can cause head and spinal cord trauma. Supervise kids on the hills carefully!

Getting out in the snow is not all fun and games. Someone has to clear the driveway! In a 17-year study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, an average of 11,500 emergency room visits were due to snow removal injuries between 1990 and 2006. Most injuries were soft-tissue related (55%) and in the lower back area (34%). Cardiac events made up only 7% of the total shoveling injuries, but 100% of the fatalities over the 17 years.