By Dr. Chris McCarthy
Now that Ohio winter is at its peak, it’s a great time to highlight potential injuries that can often happen on the slopes. Whether you are skiing, snowboarding, or tubing, the slopes can be incredibly fun for all ages. However, no matter your level of ability and experience, injuries can happen. Here are some common injuries, what to expect, and when to call us here at Hand and Microsurgery Associates in Columbus, OH.
Winter-Related Injuries in Columbus, OH
This is probably the most common shoulder injury that can happen if you are trying out that new jump or just simply hit an edge wrong and take a tumble. The most common shoulder dislocation happens when the humerus (the long bone in the upper arm) dislocates to the front of the shoulder. This generally requires a visit to the emergency room to relocate the shoulder and immobilization in a sling. Now what happens? Well, this depends on several factors including your age and if there are any associated injuries.
Dislocation in patients over the age of 20:
- You are more likely to tear your rotator cuff when the shoulder dislocates. This is a definite need for surgery. The rotator cuff is a set of muscles/tendons that help us raise our arms overhead. If they are traumatically torn, they need to be fixed in order to appropriately heal and function normally.
- Statistically, you are less likely to have a new dislocation in the future, but it is still possible. Without a history of dislocation, associated fractures or tears in the shoulder, you can do very well with a short period of immobilization (sling), followed by a therapy program.
Dislocation in patients under the age of 20:
- You have a higher likelihood of having another shoulder dislocation in the future. Especially if part of the glenoid and/or labrum (the cup part of the shoulder) are injured. If this is the case, it causes the shoulder joint to be unstable and may require surgery to fix those structures and give the shoulder back its stable boundaries.
These are also common injuries from taking a fall on the slopes and generally from landing on the side of your shoulder. Younger patients commonly fracture their clavicle. The clavicle is an important bone that struts our shoulders and therefore our entire arm to our chest.
- Historically, these fractures were almost always treated with simple slings and without surgery. More recently, many studies have discovered that many clavicle fracture patients have improved shoulder function if they are fixed with surgery (typically a plate and screws).
- Sometimes, clavicle fractures treated appropriately without surgery, do not heal properly and then require a surgery to give those patients more structure for better healing. We evaluate X-rays to determine the potential need for surgery, as well as have a detailed conversation with the patient.
- The proximal humerus is the “ball” portion of the “ball and socket” of our shoulder joint. As we age, we become more likely to fracture this bone rather than the clavicle.
- Many of these fractures can be treated appropriately without surgery but with (similar concept to those dislocation patients) a period of immobilization followed by slowly getting into therapy afterwards at each step of healing.
- Some patients will have improved shoulder function if they have surgery. This is based on various fracture patterns or patient specific factors (age, activity level, concurrent injuries, etc.). This can mean either fixing the fracture with a plate and screws or even replacing the shoulder joint. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, which is a conversation between the patient and surgeon.
How to protect yourself and your children
- Use the proper equipment. Consult the experts on staff at the lodge for the appropriate safety gear you will need.
- If you are new to the slopes, it will be helpful to take a lesson or two from a professional. The best way to have a safe and fun day in that powdery, white snow, is to be taught proper techniques that you can develop overtime and hopefully remain uninjured.
- Be mindful of your ability level, as well as your friends, family and children. Look out for each other, be safe, and always have a great time out there!
If you find yourself laying in the snow unexpectedly and feel your arm injured, it is always best to seek the advice of medical personnel on the slopes. Otherwise, during business hours, give us a call at 614-262-4263 and we can help guide you either to an appropriate emergency department or our office in Columbus, OH for a prompt visit. When in doubt, an emergency department can always evaluate your injury as a first step. Happy snow days!