Winter Sports & Musculoskeletal Injuries: What You Need to Know

Young woman sitting on snow injured during skiing, holding her knee in pain while a friend comes to help.

As the temperature drops, winter sports enthusiasts eagerly embrace the season. Whether you're an experienced athlete or a novice, activities like skiing and ice skating offer an exhilarating way to enjoy the winter season. However, just like with any activity, accidents can occur, leading to sports injuries that range from fractures to ligament injuries.

Winter sports can result in painful injuries

Should you find yourself injured while participating in winter sports, it's essential to seek immediate medical attention. Consulting with an experienced orthopedic surgeon with extensive experience treating sports injuries can provide you with the professional care and treatment needed to ensure a prompt and effective recovery, allowing you to get back to the slopes and rinks as soon as possible.

Some of the most common injuries associated with winter sports include:


Fractures are among the most common musculoskeletal injuries in winter sports. The impact of falls or collisions on hard, icy surfaces or an indoor basketball court can lead to broken bones. Symptoms of fractures may include intense pain, swelling, deformity, and difficulty moving the affected limb. In the case of a fracture, an orthopedic surgeon may:

  • Conduct imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans to assess the extent of the fracture.
  • Set and immobilize the broken bone using casts, splints, or surgical fixation.
  • Perform surgery, if necessary, to realign the fractured bone fragments.
  • Prescribe pain management and recommend physical therapy to aid in the recovery process.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are common, often resulting from twisting or abrupt changes in direction during winter sports such as skiing, ice hockey, figure skating, and basketball. Examples include anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries, and meniscus tears. Symptoms may encompass pain, swelling, instability, and limited knee mobility. Orthopedic surgeons may address knee injuries by:

  • Conducting a thorough evaluation, including diagnostic imaging like MRI scans.
  • Recommending conservative treatments such as rest, physical therapy, and bracing.
  • Performing arthroscopic surgery to repair or reconstruct damaged ligaments or cartilage.
  • Prescribing pain relief measures and a rehabilitation plan for optimal recovery.

Sprains and Strains

Ligament and muscle injuries, including sprains and strains, can occur due to falls or awkward landings in winter sports. Commonly affected areas include the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Symptoms may involve pain, swelling, bruising, and limited joint movement. Orthopedic surgeons may address these injuries by:

  • Evaluating the severity of the sprain or strain through clinical examination and imaging studies.
  • Recommending the R.I.C.E. protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for initial management.
  • Providing specialized exercises and physical therapy to regain strength and mobility.
  • Offering minimally invasive surgical interventions, if necessary, to repair severely damaged tissues.


Forceful impact can lead to joint dislocations, such as shoulder dislocations or finger dislocations. Symptoms typically include severe pain, deformity, and the inability to move the dislocated joint. Orthopedic surgeons may manage dislocations by:

  • Urgently reducing or relocating the dislocated joint to its normal position.
  • Confirming joint stability and assessing for associated fractures or ligament injuries.
  • Recommending physical therapy to regain range of motion and strength.
  • Considering surgical intervention for complex dislocations or recurrent instability.

Spinal Injuries

High-speed winter activities can result in spinal injuries, including herniated discs or compression fractures, due to falls or collisions. Symptoms may include back or neck pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the extremities. Orthopedic surgeons may address spinal injuries by:

  • Conducting comprehensive imaging studies, such as MRI or CT scans, to evaluate spinal integrity.
  • Prescribing conservative treatments like rest, bracing, and physical therapy.
  • Considering surgical options for severe cases, including spinal fusion or decompression surgery.
  • Collaborating with other specialists, such as neurosurgeons, when necessary, for optimal patient care.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Injuries to soft tissues like tendons and ligaments are common in winter sports, particularly in the knees, wrists, and ankles. Symptoms often involve pain, swelling, instability, and impaired joint function. Orthopedic surgeons may address soft tissue injuries by:

  • Conducting a comprehensive physical examination and, if needed, diagnostic imaging.
  • Recommending rest, bracing, or splinting to promote healing.
  • Offering minimally invasive procedures like arthroscopy for surgical repairs.
  • Designing personalized rehabilitation programs to restore function and prevent re-injury.

Contusions and Abrasions

Contusions (bruises) and skin abrasions, often referred to as "ice burns," can result from sliding or tumbling on icy terrain. These injuries typically cause localized pain, swelling, and skin discoloration. Orthopedic surgeons may not directly treat contusions and abrasions but can assess for any underlying musculoskeletal injuries and collaborate with dermatologists or wound care specialists for appropriate management.

Overuse Injuries

Repetitive movements, such as extended periods of skating or skiing, can lead to overuse injuries like shin splints or stress fractures. Symptoms often include pain, swelling, and discomfort during activity. Orthopedic surgeons may address overuse injuries by:

  • Conducting a detailed history and physical examination to identify contributing factors.
  • Advising rest and activity modification to alleviate symptoms.
  • Recommending physical therapy for strengthening and improving biomechanics.
  • Monitoring recovery progress and considering surgical intervention in rare, severe cases.

Schedule an appointment with an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon

Don't let a sports injury keep you from the fun this winter. Stay in the game by addressing injuries promptly with the support of IMC Bone Doc's experienced New York sports medicine doctors. Our board-certified physicians are ready to guide you toward the most effective treatment for your sports-related injury. Contact us today to discover your path to a swift and complete recovery. We have offices in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Deer Park, Patchogue, Richmond Hill, Shirley, and Valley Stream.

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