Let it snow: 5 tips for safe shoveling


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Winter is upon us, and if you’re one of those people who gets stuck shoveling pounds of snow each year, please be careful. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, as many as 16,500 people will be treated in an emergency room for an injury after removing snow or ice by hand.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says the most common injuries related to shoveling snow include back and shoulder sprains and strains. If you have a medical condition in which any activity may make your heart work extra hard, check with your doctor first. It may be worth the money to hire someone to shovel the snow for you.

If you’re otherwise capable, take the following steps recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio:

  1. Clear snow often. The earlier you start, the lighter the load you have to shovel. If you wait, the snow will become packed down, making it heavier.
  2. Warm up! Perform light exercises and stretches before you shovel. Because it is an aerobic exercise, you’ll want to take breaks and keep yourself hydrated as well.
  3. Measure your shovel. Is it comfortable for your height? Is it too heavy? Make sure your equipment matches your strength and height so you get the best leverage.
  4. Use the best technique. The AAOS says to try pushing the snow instead of lifting it. “If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it.”
  5. Pay attention to your body. Stop what you’re doing immediately and seek emergency care if you have any sign of chest pain, shortness of breath or any other signs of a heart attack.