News & Info

Did It Snow Last Night? Read This First!

You undoubtedly know that winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and sledding have the potential to send participants to the hospital. But there’s another common snow activity that brought almost 250,000 Americans to the emergency room or doctor’s office last year: According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), snow removal offers the potential for injury and cardiovascular problems.

If you live in a snowy region, you know that shoveling snow is hard work, but it’s a chore that has to be done to protect householders and passersby. For seniors, snow removal is especially challenging—and if you’re a family caregiver, you may be responsible for not only your own sidewalk, but also that of your elderly relatives!

To help prevent injuries and overexertion, read these four snow shoveling safety tips from the AAOS:

Push the snow instead of lifting it. 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.

Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that puts stress on your back. Instead, walk to where you want to dump the snow.

Clear snow early and often. Begin when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid having to clear packed, heavy snow.

Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and replenish with fluids to prevent dehydration. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, seek immediate emergency care.

The AAOS also recommends that seniors and anyone with a heart condition consult with their doctor before clearing snow. According to the American Heart Association, the combination of exertion and cold during snow shoveling may raise the risk of heart attack.

Many people choose to make the task easier and save wear and tear on their bodies by using a snow blower. The AAOS also reminds us to use these machines safely:

Follow instructions. Prior to operating a snow blower, read the instruction manual for specific safety hazards, unfamiliar features, or for repair and maintenance.

Never stick your hands or feet in the snow blower. If snow becomes impacted, stop the engine and wait at least five seconds. Unplug the snow blower. 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.

Do not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running. Shut off the engine if you must walk away from the machine.

Watch 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.

No matter what snow removal method you’re using, the AAOS recommends that you take your time. Said AAOS spokesperson Dr. Joseph Abboud, “Individuals tend to hasten through snow shoveling to avoid being outside in the cold for long periods of time. Unfortunately, rushing through this task can lead to injuries. It should always be done at a slow and steady pace because of the energy and focus that’s required. Always check with your doctor before shoveling snow and consider hiring someone to do it for you if you’re unable to.”

Find more safe snow removal tips on the AAOS website.

Source: The American Academy of Orthopaedic surgeons (, adapted by IlluminAge AgeWise.

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