Winter Injuries: Stay Safe Out There


Melissa Messer is the physician assistant in our orthopedic  and podiatry clinics. She has seen patients at Upland Hills Health since 2010 and assisted with more than 2,000 orthopedic surgeries in that time.


Casey Spangler, Athletic Trainer at Upland Hills HealthCasey Spangler is an Athletic Trainer at Upland Hills Health and works with a variety of patients, from student athletes to joint replacement patients, helping them achieve their activity goals.



Winter weather is upon us. With it comes a beautiful landscape with a blanket of white snow. Unfortunately, winter weather also brings injuries. Some safety tips for preventing injuries, and what to do if you do get hurt, from Melissa Messer, orthopedic physician assistant, and Casey Spangler, athletic trainer.

Slips and Falls

Slipping and falling on ice can be scary and can happen in an instant. An icy patch may be difficult to see in low light or if it has snow covering it. Sometimes what appears to be a puddle could be a patch of ice. Falls can be minor, or they could lead to breaks, dislocations and a lot of pain.


Injury Prevention Tips

  • Wear proper footwear – Cold weather boots with traction
  • Slow down, don’t rush or run
  • Take short steps—in fact, walk like a penguin
  • Salt or sand your sidewalks and driveway
  • Keep your cell phone on you in case of emergency

Snow sports injuries

Ice skating, hockey, snowboarding, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling are popular winter sports in Wisconsin. Even sledding should be approached with some caution. With fast speeds and high intensity, snow sports can lead to injury. Falls can cause concussions and head injuries as well as neck and back injuries. Knees and ankles can twist, leading to sprains, tears or breaks. Breaking your fall can also lead to shoulder and wrist problems. Safety and prevention can makes these sports safer, but still fun.


Injury Prevention Tips

  • Wear appropriate safety equipment, helmet, and warm gear for the sport.
    • Check over your equipment for damage. Repair or replace equipment as needed.
  • Use the buddy system – Skiing or snowmobiling alone can make it nearly impossible to get help.
  • Follow posted signs on the slopes or trails–know what’s in your path.
  • Know your limits and abilities. Take lessons if you are new to a sport.
  • Keep hydrated and avoid over exertion.
  • Stop if you feel pain.

Snow Blower Safety

Snow blowers make snow removal easier and can prevent injuries associated with shoveling. However, caution should be used with this type of machinery. Major injuries such as hand and finger amputations from the blade may occur. As well as smaller injuries to the face and eyes from flying snow.


Injury Prevention Tips

  • NEVER reach into a snow blower to dislodge it.
  • If the machine becomes jammed, turn it off, disconnect the spark plug and wait for the blade to stop spinning. Use a stick or long handled tool to dislodge the ice. Do not use your hands.
  • Wear safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from flying snow, ice, and gravel.
  • Avoid loose clothing or scarves that could get caught in the rotating parts.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and where you are throwing the snow.
  • Stay hydrated and avoid over–exerting yourself. Take breaks.

Snow Shoveling and Window Scraping

We all know what it’s like waking up to newly fallen snow on your driveway or ice on your windshield. Shoveling injuries sometimes happen at early hours due to low light and visibility. Or when people are rushing to get the job done so that they can get to work on time.


Large trucks and SUVs can make scraping the center of the windshield difficult. Low back and shoulder injuries are very common from the awkward positions and straining that comes with scraping these windshields.

Injury Prevention Tips

  • Look at the forecast before you go to bed so you can manage your time in the morning.
  • Warm up and stretch before you begin (no, really).
  • Wear warm clothing and boots with traction.
  • Slow down! Rushing can lead to injury.
  • Don’t overreach when scraping. Consider using a telescoping scraper for SUVs and trucks.
  • Use proper form when shoveling – Back straight, no hunching, lift with your legs, not back, and use a small shovel for smaller loads.
  • Use the shovel like a plow to push snow out of the way rather than scooping.

Treatments that are Safe to Try at Home

For injuries that are present, but you are still able to move and use the affected area; such as muscle aches, strains, and sprains.

  • Apply ice for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Apply a compression wrap for 3-4 hours at a time.
  • Avoid activities that cause your symptoms to worsen.
  • If pain persists after 1-2 weeks, check in with your regular doctor.

When to Seek Immediate Help

Heart Attack Warning Signs

  • Pain, or feeling pressure on your chest.
  • Pain in your jaw area.
  • Pain in your left arm.
  • Inability to catch your breath, even after resting.

Severe Head Injury Symptoms

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Worsening headache

Breaks and Cuts

  • Bleeding that will not stop
  • Cuts deeper than the tip of a pencil, or with muscle and/or bone showing
  • Obvious break in the bone

Does my insurance work with Upland Hills Health?

It’s one of the most common questions our patient financial services experts get.

Most people are surprised to learn that Upland Hills Health works with a wide range of health plan and PPOs. We are an independent, nonprofit healthcare organization, always pursuing additional insurance carriers that service our communities.


Most frequently used insurance plans:

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