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Preventing winter sports-related injuries

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Preventing winter sports-related injuries
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Winter sports-related injuries sent 310,000 people to doctors' offices and ERs for treatment in 2012. That's according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Our Sarah Blazonis tells us how to avoid some of the most common injuries.

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- We've spent this winter bundling up and shoveling out, but it's going to take more than a polar vortex to keep some sports lovers cooped up until spring finally decides to show up.

"I mean, we have a long winter. It's fun to do it, and you're outside. You know, cause otherwise we'd be inside all the time in this climate," said Dr. Ryan Smart, a sports medicine physician with Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists.

Smart says the snowier and colder the winter, the more patients he sees with injuries from their time on the slopes or at the rink.

"Some of the mild stuff could just be like a knee sprain," said Smart. "And of course, you can get more severe stuff when you can fall and break bones or fall harder and actually tear ligaments."

If you're thinking about trying out a new activity, Smart says the easiest way to avoid one common mistake is by using common sense.

"You want proper education and coaching, particularly if you're going to go get on skates for the first time," he said.

Before lacing up, watch out for boot stiffness. Skates that limit ankle movement can contribute to muscle weakness. Check that blades are correctly positioned and sharpened to avoid problems on the ice, but coaches say there are other missteps that can be hard to avoid.

"I've done it, we've all done it, catch a toe pick, go down on a knee. It really hurts. We've had people injure their knee, or fall down, injure their hip," said Liane Knapp, who coaches figure skating and hockey for the state Special Olympics and at Lakeshore Hockey Arena in Rochester.

For skiing, talk to a professional to find the right type of boots and skis for you. Wear several thin layers of clothing to allow for heat retention and ventilation.

Most important, enforcing a culture of safety first.

"The coaches have to let the athletes know - you've got to be careful. You can't just go as fast as you can down the hill without maybe taking some turns so you don't run into a tree," said Knapp.

Because injuries have the potential to sideline athletes longer than Mother Nature.

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