Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs & Community Relations Specialist
(Office) 413-967-2296 (Cell) 413-237-6743
Ware, MA (December 31, 2013) – As many in Massachusetts head back to work after the New Year’s Day Holiday, we could be facing a long-duration snowstorm resulting in a significant amount of snow. “The winter season brings the cold weather, snow and a list of injuries that are common with the season,” said Morris Leibowitz, MD, board certified Emergency Physician at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.
According to a study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, US hospitals treat on average about 11,500 injuries and medical emergencies a year related to shoveling snow. The study, the first national survey of snow-shoveling injuries, said the activity places demands on the cardiovascular system and can raise heart rates above recommended upper limits for unfit people. Two-thirds of shoveling injuries occurred in men, and 15% of injuries were in children under 18 years old.
“Snow shoveling is no different than any other physical activity, if you have any health concerns you should ask your doctor first,” said Dr. Leibowitz who offers these snow shoveling safety tips:
• Avoid caffeine or nicotine before beginning. These are stimulants which may increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict. This places extra stress on the heart. Cigarette smokers can get short of breath quite easily. Shortness of breath can increase your chances of heart and lung problems.
• Pick the right shovel for you. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body. Begin shoveling slowly to avoid placing a sudden demand on your heart. Pace yourself and take breaks as needed.
• Use the proper length snow shovel. If the handle is too short your back may be unnecessarily stressed. Check how the shovel feels in your hands before you purchase it.
• Protect your back from injury by lifting correctly. Stand with your feet about hip width for balance and keep the shovel close to your body. Bend from the knees (not the back) and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow. Avoid twisting movements.
• If you have heart or lung trouble always talk to your doctor before you take on the task of shoveling snow.
Back injuries can also result from snow blower use. Snow blowers are designed to remove snow at a particular rate of speed. Don't push or force the equipment to go faster, let it do the work for you. Dr. Leibowitz also adds "each year we see numerous hand injuries from snow blower use. If the snow blower clogs with ice, the blade may stop turning but the engine may not shut off. Never reach inside to check or service the blades unless the motor is shut off."
“Most importantly, listen to your body, stop if you feel pain of any kind,” said Dr. Leibowitz. “If you experience an injury or symptoms such as chest pain, shoulder, neck or arm pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, sweating or nausea., even if it temporally subsides, come immediately to the Emergency Room to be evaluated.”
The mission of the Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Emergency Department is to provide timely and exceptional care. With our 30-minute pledge, our goal is for a provider to see every patient within 30 minutes of their arrival at our facility. Check out iTriage, a smartphone-based application for Android and iPhone to see our actual ER wait times.
For more information visit www.baystatehealth.org/bmlh.