February 13th, 2014
Cross Country skiing is a strenuous sport that stresses the body in many ways and exposes the athletes to numerous cold injuries. Cold injuries can affect skiers in ways that can makeor break the outcome of the race for the individual. This article will go over some of the injuries that a skier may encounter during the sport, and can serve as a guideline of how these injuries can be prevented by the athlete.
The first injury we will discuss is hypothermia, which can occur due to a decrease in the core temperature of the body and is classified as mild, moderate or severe. Mild hypothermia occurs when the bodies’ core temperature is between 95°F – 98.6°F, moderate hypothermia occurs at 90°F – 94°F, and severe hypothermia occurs at core temperatures of below 90°F. Some signs and symptoms of hypothermia include: vigorous shivering, decreased blood pressure, bradycardia, decreased motor control, cardiac arrhythmias, depressed respiration, loss of consciousness.
Frostbite can be defined as the freezing of the body tissues, and is a localized response to a dry and cold environment. Some signs and symptoms of frostbite include: dry/waxy skin, edema, tingling or burning, hard skin, white/grey/black/purplish skin, decreased circulation, throbbing pain and limited movement of the affected area.
Chilblain occurs from extended exposure to wet, cold conditions that skiers are exposed to regularly. Chilblain is an inflammatory response to the cold exposure causing restriction of the blood vessels leading to vessel inflammation, as well as edema in the dermis. Some signs and symptoms of chilblain include: red lesions, tenderness, itching, numbness, tingling and swelling.
Immersion foot occurs from prolonged exposure in cold, wet conditions typically around 12 hours or longer. Immersion foot affects the soft tissues including nerves and blood vessels, which are the results of an inflammatory response that causes high levels of extracellular fluid in the tissues. Prolonged wearing of wet socks or footwear most commonly causes immersion foot. Some of the signs and symptoms of immersion foot include: burning or tingling, loss of sensation, skin blotches, swelling, pain and blisters.
Cold urticaria is an allergic reaction to cold temperatures due to cold exposure. Signs and symptoms of cold urticaria are redness, itching, swelling and hives on the skin that is exposed to cold.
Raynaud’s disease is a condition that causes some areas of the body to feel numb and cold in response to cold stresses it is under. Raynaud’s causes the smaller arteries that are responsible for supplying blood to the skin to become narrow, which leads to a limited blood circulation to the affected areas. Signs and symptoms of Raynaud’s include skin discoloration, tingling, numbness, pain to affected areas and in rare cares ulceration of the affected area.
These injuries can be avoided if the skier takes the proper precautions to avoid them from happening. Always ensure you are staying as dry as possible and as warm as possible when exposing yourself to cold climates. If you ever find yourself affected by one these conditions, consult your medical provider to find out if you require any treatment before it is to late. Happy skiing! Stay warm!