Shoveling and Snowblowing Injuries and Prevention

As the winter arrives in full force, so does the inevitable task of snow removal. Shoveling and snowblowing are not just hard work, they also carry great risk for injury. This is especially true for individuals who do not exercise regularly.

In 2009, more than 21,000 injuries occurred due to snow removal – 16,500 of those hospital visits accounting for shoveling injuries and incidents.  Back and/or shoulder sprains and strains are the most common injuries.

Though many do not realize it, snow clearing places heavy stress on the heart. You should consult with your doctor before shoveling or snowblowing, especially if you have preexisting health problems. Wear appropriate clothing as well as shoes with good treads on the bottom to prevent falls. To avoid unnecessary exertion, start shoveling early when the snow isn’t as dense.

For snow shoveling, remember to warm up your muscles as you would before any regular exercise activity. Pace yourself, and take frequent breaks for rest and water. If you experience any signs of a heart attack – chest pain, shortness of breath, etc. – stop shoveling immediately and seek emergency care. Pay attention to your equipment, and do not use a shovel that is too long or heavy for you. Remember to push the snow rather than lifting, and do not bend at the waist (especially while tossing snow over your shoulder).

For snowblowing, remember never to stick your hands in or near the snowblower – even when it has been turned off, wait a few minutes and then use a solid object to clear the chute.

Reference: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “Prevent Snow Shoveling and Snowblowing Injuries,” December 2011.