December 06, 2007 12:59 ET

Oh, the Weather Outside Is Frightful...

Don't Let Snow Shoveling Ruin Your Winter Wonderland

ROSEMONT, IL--(Marketwire - December 6, 2007) - Snow shoveling tends to be an unpleasant task -- this tiring seasonal chore may result in serious injury if you do not take the right precautions. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has recommendations to help you stay safe while clearing snow so you can still have some winter fun.

According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission:

--  In 2006, more than 31,000 people were treated in hospital emergency
    rooms, doctors' offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries
    sustained while shoveling or otherwise removing ice and snow manually.
--  More than 5,000 were injured using snowblowers.
--  Types of injuries can include sprains and strains, particularly in the
    back and shoulders, as well as lacerations and finger amputations.

"People tend to think of snow removal as just another household task, but it really involves a lot of bending and heavy lifting," says Glen D. Shapiro, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and Fellow of the AAOS. "It can be especially dangerous for people who do not regularly exercise, as their bodies are not prepared for that level of activity."

The Academy offers the following strategies to prevent injuries while shoveling and using a snowblower:

--  Check with your doctor. Because this activity places high stress on
    the heart, speak with your physician first. If you have a medical condition
    or do not exercise regularly, consider hiring someone to remove the snow.
--  Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides
    both ventilation and insulation. It is also important to wear the
    appropriate head coverings, as well as mittens or gloves and thick, warm
    socks. Take a break if you feel yourself getting too hot or too cold.
--  See what you are shoveling/snow blowing. Make sure that your hat or
    scarf does not block your vision. Watch for ice patches and uneven
    surfaces. Avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots that have slip-resistant
--  Clear snow early and often. Begin when a light covering of snow is on
    the ground to avoid trying to clear packed, heavy snow.


--  Warm up your muscles. Shoveling can be a vigorous activity. Before you
    begin, warm up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise. Be sure to
    include your leg muscles -- heart attacks and similar injuries are
    sometimes the result of working the smaller muscles of your arms and back
    while not using the large muscle groups of the legs.
--  Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent
    dehydration. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other
    signs of a heart attack, seek emergency care, such as by calling 9-1-1.
--  Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not
    use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Consider buying a
    shovel that is specially designed to prevent too much stooping. Space your
    hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage.
--  Push the snow instead of lifting it, as much as you can. 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. Then walk to where you want to dump the
    snow; holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much
    weight on your spine.
--  Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires
    a twisting motion that stresses your back.


--  Never stick your hands in the snow blower! If snow becomes too
    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.
--  Add fuel before starting the snow blower. Never add fuel when the
    engine is running or hot. Do not operate the machine in an enclosed area.
--  Read the instruction manual. Prior to using a snow blower, read the
    instruction manual for specific safety hazards, unfamiliar features, and
    whenever attempting to repair or maintain the snow blower.

More tips on snow shoveling safety

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