Tips to Avoid Hand and Wrist Injuries in the Winter - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on February 18, 2013

Tips to Avoid Hand and Wrist Injuries in the Winter Months

SPRINGFIELD, Pa.— The winter months are a time for snow, ice and cold weather. But, along with those conditions comes an increase in injuries to the wrists and hands. Snow and ice can sometimes make the simplest activities, like walking, a treacherous task. Also, skiing, snow boarding and ice skating put you at an even higher risk of hand and wrist injuries.

“One of the most common winter injuries occurs because of snowblowers,” says Gregory Tadduni, M.D., Taylor Hospital hand surgeon. “Because the snow becomes packed inside of the snowblower, it’s common for people to reach inside to try to unclog it. Many people are not aware that even when the engine is shut off, the blade is still wound up. Once the clog is cleared, it will give one final rotation—causing extensive injuries to the hand and fingers.”


The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) gives these safety tips for unclogging your snowblower:

  • Turn it off.
  • Never put your hand down the chute or around the blades.
  • Disengage the clutch.
  • Wait five seconds after shutting the machine off to allow impeller blades to stop rotating.
  • Always use a stick or broom handle to clear impacted snow. Never use your hand.
  • Keep all shields in place. Do not remove the safety devices on the machine.
  • Keep hands and feet away from all moving parts.

Depending on the severity of the snowblower injury, in which the loss of fingers and severe lacerations of the hands are common, patients may require stitches, reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation.

“We see a lot of ligament injuries to the thumb this time of the year, often due to skiing accidents,” says David S. Zelouf, M.D., Crozer-Keystone/Philadelphia Hand Center hand surgeon. “This injury, often called ‘skier’s thumb,’ occurs when a skier falls with his/her hand caught in their ski pole. The thumb pulls away from the hand causing the ligament to tear. When you fall with a ski pole, it’s important to keep your fist closed to avoid this type of injury.”

Patients who sustain these types of ligament tears typically complain of pain and swelling at the base of the thumb. It can be difficult for them to grasp objects with a firm grip. Treatments for these injuries depend on severity, but typically include a splint to keep the thumb from moving around. If it’s severe, surgery may be necessary to repair the tear.

“It’s common for injuries of the wrist and hand to occur because of slipping on the ice, and from ice skating,” says Guy Nardella Jr., M.D., chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “Because we usually try to catch ourselves using our hands when we fall, especially when we’re slipping, it can cause fractures of the wrist. Even though it’s difficult, we should all try to fall with our forearms instead of our wrists. Also, it’s better to fall on the backside, but if we’re slipping, it can be hard to navigate the direction of the fall.”

Crozer-Keystone’s orthopedics and plastic surgery specialists work “hand in hand” with the experts at The Philadelphia Hand Center to bring our patients access to the latest advances and knowledge in diagnosing and treating injuries, diseases and disorders of the hand — from the tip of the finger to the wrist, all in a convenient and familiar setting that’s close to home.

If you are suffering from an injury to the hand or wrist, call the Crozer-Keystone/Philadelphia Hand Center partnership at 1-855-5CK-HAND (1-855-525-4263). You can also visit http://hand.crozerkeystone.org to fill out a secure online request form to schedule an appointment with one of our fellowship-trained hand surgeons. Same business day and next business day appointments are guaranteed.

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