Throw Out Injuries This Winter, Not Your Back

Nov 25, 2013, 11:12 ET from American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

ROSEMONT, Ill., Nov. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Each winter, snow removal becomes a necessary to-do for millions of Americans. But back strains and other common snow removal injuries can turn this chore into a daunting task.

 According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2012:

  • More than 34,200 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices,
    clinics and other medical settings for injuries sustained while shoveling snow.
  • Nearly 8,000 people were injured using snow blowers.

To help reduce the risk for injuries, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers safety tips and expert advice.  

"Snow removal is high stress on the back if done incorrectly and is especially dangerous if you do not exercise regularly," said AAOS spokesperson Steven Morgan, MD. "Always proceed with caution when removing snow. If you have a medical condition, consider hiring someone or asking for help from friends, neighbors or family members to remove the snow."

The AAOS recommends the following safety tips for snow removal:


  • 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 emergency care.

Snow blowing:

  • 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. 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.

Click here for more snow blowing and shoveling safety tips.

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SOURCE American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons