Winter makes life complicated. You have to put on extra layers, get the right tires on your car, think ahead to warm it up. Then there’s clearing your driveway. And it turns out using a shovel to do that work might be more dangerous than you thought.
So while you’re experiencing the first widespread snowfall in Maine, consider these shovel-related injury statistics below.
The data come from a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine that analyzed injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1990 to 2006:
— About 4.15 per 100,000 people got injured when they were wielding a shovel or were near someone wielding a shovel. That makes these types of boo-boos relatively common. Each year there are about 11,500 snow shovel-related injuries and medical emergencies treated in emergency rooms.
— Mostly men got injured in shoveling incidents — about two-thirds of cases (67.5 percent), in fact.
— Older adults (55 years and older) accounted for about 22 percent of the (mostly) driveway mishaps.
— Children younger than 18 get hurt, too, making up about 15 percent of shoveling accidents.
— The most common injury? Strains, sprains, contusions, abrasions. These soft-tissue injuries (to muscles, tendons or ligaments) accounted for 54.7 percent of all injuries.
— People also tend to hurt their lower backs (hence the need to lift with your legs). Injuries to the lower back accounted for 34.3 percent of hospital admissions.
— In 20 percent of emergencies, people slipped and fell. In 15 percent, they were struck by a shovel. Cardiac-related ER visits, such as for heart attacks, accounted for 6.7 percent of cases.
So know your limits. Use the proper technique: Bend your knees, lift with your legs, keeping your hands 12 inches apart on the shovel handle to increase your leverage. Don’t bend at the waist, and don’t twist.
A curved shovel handle will help you keep your back straight while shoveling. Also, try to pick a shovel with a plastic blade, which will likely be lighter than a metal one. If you can, push the snow, rather than lift it. Don’t forget to pace yourself.
Or just get a snowblower.
(But then you wouldn’t get famous like this man with his impressive snow-shoveling slip:)