Monday, February 15, 2010


Storms are unpredictable, but weather-related injuries are not

Last week’s snowstorm didn’t bring the heavy snow and wind that the weathermen forecast. But what was predictable was a series of weather-related injuries we treated at the Backus Hospital Emergency Department and Trauma Center that could have been avoided.

Snowblower injuries, cardiac issues due to overzealous snow shoveling and a jogger hit by a motor vehicle while running in blizzard-like conditions were among them.

And since we will likely see more snow and wind this winter season, here are some safety tips to keep in mind before tamer weather arrives:

Snowblowers: First and foremost, turn off the engine before attempting to clear a clog. The newer snow blowers have an automatic off switch when you take your hand off the handle, but older ones don’t have this safety feature.

Be sure to use a clearing tool, not your hand and feet. Don’t wear loose clothing, which can get tangled in a snowblower’s moving parts.

Snow shoveling: While last week’s storm didn’t dump the foot of snow that was forecast, it was of the heavy, wet variety. This kind of snow can be a heart attack waiting to happen.

Geoffrey Fabry, a physical therapist at the Backus Outpatient Care Center in Norwich, says if you have any pre-existing conditions, talk to your doctor before performing this rigorous exercise.

Once you have eliminated any doubt about whether you are physically up to the task, be sure to warm up first, and use proper body mechanics such as widening your stance and squatting and lifting with your legs. Space your hands out on the shovel handle and, when possible, push the snow instead of lifting it. Also, take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.

Snow running: Outside of the usual advice of dressing in layers, staying hydrated and wearing bright or reflective clothing, think twice before running when the weather deteriorates. Last week’s storm, if only for a brief period during the evening, featured high winds and heavy snow, leading to very low visibility. Coupled with slick roads and snow piles, this was not the day to run outdoors.

Being dedicated to your exercise routine is admirable. But the line between dedicated and careless is blurred when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

If you exercise on a regular basis, taking off the jogging shoes for one day isn’t going to hurt. But slipping on ice or getting hit by a car will.

Weathermen might have egg on their face when the get the forecast wrong. But if you make a wrong decision in bad weather, the consequences can be much worse.

Gillian Mosier is a registered nurse and manager of the Backus Trauma Program. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your physician. E-mail Ms. Mosier or any of the Healthy Living columnists at To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

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