Slippery When Wet – Pedestrian Safety on the Streets of Seattle

The snow flurry that came and went over this Thanksgiving holiday in Seattle gave way to icy roads, wet and slippery sidewalks and driveways across our fair city.  As challenging as winter can be in the Pacific Northwest, it is equally a challenging time of year for pedestrians who navigate this great city on two feet.

Icy Sidewalk Most fractures are caused by falls, including fractures of the spine and hip

Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls, and the rate of hip fractures is twice as high for women as it is for men. 

The injuries caused by these falls can make it difficult for anyone to enjoy the normal activities of daily living like walking.

OSS has a few tips for you to keep in mind while navigating the streets of Seattle including:

  • Proper footwear – Pedestrians should wear the proper footwear for the weather conditions, such as shoes and boots with appropriate traction. Rain, frost, ice, and snow can make walking on footpaths very dangerous, so proper footwear can help prevent a dangerous slip and fall. Also, walkers should wear gloves in order to break their fall if they do slip, and keep gloved hands out of their pockets for the same reason.
  • Proper clothing – Wear high visibility clothing to make yourself more visible to vehicles.
  • Avoid walking on the streets – Freezing weather tends to turn roads into an icy hazard.  Be aware of your surroundings and stay on the sidewalks or clear, cleaned paths.
  • If you can’t avoid ice and snow, take shorter, slower steps to reduce the risk of a slip and fall and subsequent injuries, particularly when using the steps at any building as these can be dangerous when covered with snow or ice.

If you experienced a fall and need specialized orthopedic care, the surgeons at Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle provide excellent treatment options available for you.  Please feel free to contact OSS at (206) 633-8100 to schedule an appointment.


Falling is Inevitable – How to Avoid Upper Extremity Injuries While Enjoying Your Favorite Winter Sports

Ice SkatingIce skating, skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports and activities are common causes of upper extremity injuries. During the winter months OSS surgeons seem to treat more upper body extremities. People who live in the Pacific Northwest don’t let rain or snow get in the way of outdoor activities, which can sometimes carry with it potential injury.
If you’re learning how to ski for the first time or are an avid skier, falling is inevitable. Skier’s thumb, or an injury of the ligaments that connect the bones in your thumb, is a common upper extremity skiing injury. The injury occurs when, during a fall, the ski pole handle places sideways pressure on the thumb causing stress to the ligament. To prevent injury to the ligament during a fall, avoid using the wrist straps of the ski pole or keep them loose to allow you to quickly release the poles. Simple finger grooves in the handle have ergonomic appeal, allowing easy grasp.Skaters and snowboarders share a similar risk of falling. Wrist and elbow fractures are most at risk as while attempting to catch ourselves with an outstretched arm.

Skaters and snowboarders share a similar risk of falling. Wrist and elbow fractures are most at risk as while attempting to catch ourselves with an outstretched arm.

OSS would like to offer the following tips to avoid falling in any winter sport:

• Use properly maintained equipment adjusted for your body, skill level and terrain. Consider taking classes from a professional instructor who can give you safety advice.

• General conditioning prior to engaging in wintertime sports optimizes your strength and endurance as well as decreases the likelihood of falls.
• Be aware of your terrain and snow conditions, as well as people of all skill levels who may or may not know how to stop.
• Plan ahead when preparing to exit a ski lift, and communicate your plan to other passengers.
• Respect pain and fatigue. It is important to know your limits and recognize the signs of fatigue and stop before your body is unable to keep up with you.
file6841294260603A rule of thumb when you are out and about enjoying your favorite winter sports is to attempt to fall toward your uphill side and avoid reaching out or behind you while skiing or snowboarding. Use your forearms. Falling safely is a skill you can practice and master, beginning on easier slopes. Wrist guards are particularly important for snowboarders. Boarding gloves with built-in wrist guards are available.
If you do experience pain after a fall while enjoying one of these winter activities, it is very important to be evaluated by an OSS physician. OSS physicians are experts in sports medicine for adults and children.

If you believe you are suffering from a winter sports injury and need specialized orthopedic care, the surgeons at Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle provide excellent treatment options available for you. Please feel free to contact OSS at (206) 633-8100 to schedule an appointment.

‘Mixin’ It Up’ Does Wonders for Kids in Sports

Kids_SportsFall and winter sports season is upon us! Boys are playing football. Girls are doing their cheer routines at games. Cross-country, field hockey, tennis, and volleyball players are in full swing at high schools across the country. While kids are eager to jump right into these activities, injuries this time of year increase.

Why Do More Sports Injuries Occur in the Fall and Winter?

  • Sudden increases in activity level
  • Unpredictable weather and changes in playing surface. Shifting weather patterns are another factor that contributes to sports injuries in the fall and winter.
  • Muscle fatigue – During the summer months, kids move freely.  Suddenly, when school starts, students are cramped into an uncomfortable school desk for eight hours a day. The hips remain flexed at 90-degrees, and the brain focuses on keeping the hip flexors, hamstrings, and spinal erectors engaged to maintain a sitting position. Unfortunately, these are the opposite muscles the body needs to prevent common sports injuries.

What Are the Most Common Fall and Winter Sports Injuries & How Are They Prevented?

Slowly ramping up activity levels over the course of a few months leading into preseason can minimize the risk significantly. Students should spend at least 10 minutes warming up every practice and devote twice as long to end-of-practice stretches to prevent injuries including:

Kids_FootballMiddle-school-age children come in with growth plate injuries.  A growth plate injury occurs at either end of the leg bone. A damaged growth plate may lead to arthritis, crooked bones, or limbs that do not grow long enough — although these circumstances are rare. More often than not, kids rebound from a growth plate injury without any further consequences.

  • To prevent these injuries, be sure you oversee your child’s strength training to ensure he or she is not lifting too much weight too fast. You also want to see that your child is using the proper form. Playing in extreme cold, certain medications, neurological disorders, metabolic diseases, and genetic factors are believed to all play a role in the development of growth plate injuries as well. It is important to speak with a sports medicine professional to determine whether your child may be at risk for a growth plate injury.

When high school athletes begin to get tired, they get sloppy. Fatigue is the number one factor in ankle sprains.  Teach your child to recognize signs of fatigue so he or she can request a break if the coach doesn’t see it.

Some of these early signals may include some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Inconsistent performance
  • Decreased focus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle twitches
  • Depression or irritability
  • Severe thirst
  • Generalized weakness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches

According to Dr. Downer, “Mix it up, don’t just play one sport. Instead be diverse and try different types of sporting activities throughout the year. Staying active keeps you well-conditioned and less likely to experience an injury.”

If you believe you are suffering from a sports-related injury and need specialized orthopedic care, the orthopedic surgeons at OSS provide excellent treatment options for your injury. Please feel free to contact OSS at (206) 633-8100 to schedule an appointment.

Carving Safety Tips for this Holiday Season

Carving article photoThanksgiving is just around the corner and almost everyone is planning a big feast, strategizing for the family football rematch, watching the Macy’s Day parade and of course, NFL football on TV.  With all these things going on in one day, there is no bigger star than the Thanksgiving turkey as it is paraded from the kitchen into the dining room where someone will be carving the revered bird.  This holiday season, Orthopedic Specialists would like to caution all the carvers out there as they carve the main course and not their hands.


People sustain hand injuries during Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season.   When friends and family are watching you as you carve the turkey, you may feel a little overwhelmed, so focus; don’t let your turkey day celebrations go fowl this year because of a hand injury.


Follow these easy tips and get your bird on the table in time so guests can start gobbling:

1) Never cut towards yourself. One slip of the knife can cause a horrific injury.  While carving a turkey or cutting a pumpkin your free hand should be placed opposite the side you are carving towards. Don’t place your hand underneath the blade to catch the slice of meat.

2) Keep your cutting area well-lit and dry. Good lighting will help prevent an accidental cut of the finger and making sure your cutting surface is dry will prevent ingredients from slipping while chopping.

3) Keep your knife handles dry. A wet handle can prove slippery and cause your hand to slip down onto the blade resulting in a nasty cut.

4) Keep all cutting utensils sharp. A sharp knife will never need to be forced to cut, chop, carve or slice. A knife too dull to cut properly is still sharp enough to cause an injury.

5) Use an electric knife to ease the carving of the turkey or ham.

6) Use kitchen sheers to tackle the job of cutting bones and joints.

7) Leave meat and pumpkin carving to the adults.  Children have not yet developed the dexterity skills necessary to safely handle sharp utensils.

8) Lastly, should you cut your finger or hand, bleeding from minor cuts will often stop on their own by applying direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth.


Visit an emergency room or a hand surgeon if:

1) Continuous pressure does not stop the bleeding after 15 minutes

2) You notice persistent numbness or tingling in the fingertip

3) You are unsure of your tetanus immunization status

4) You are unable to thoroughly cleanse the wound by rinsing with a mild soap and plenty of clean water


Dr. Weil states, “I often see patients whose holiday season has been ruined by an accident in the kitchen.   The most common kitchen injuries that I treat are lacerations.  Lacerations sustained while carving pumpkins, turkeys, and other holiday fare can be quite serious.  These injuries can include cut nerves, arteries and tendons.  These types of injuries require immediate surgical management to restore function.   Treatment can include microscope assisted nerve repairs, artery repairs, and tendon repairs.  If you sustain a laceration where you lose sensation to your finger or hand or are unable to bend your finger please seek medical treatment immediately. “


These simple tips will help you enjoy that bird and the rest of your holiday season.  If you would like more information on specialty care of the hand, call Orthopedic Specialists and make an appointment with one of our expert, orthopedic doctors at (206) 633-8100.


Preventing Ski Injuries Through Conditioning

Ski_Injury_PreventionA busy ski resort in the United States may see dozens of injuries on the slopes each day. As an orthopedic surgeon, I also see many patients with ski-related injuries throughout the season. Most injuries are the result of poor conditioning, or equipment failure.

The most common injuries amongst downhill skiers are knee sprains, shoulder injuries, head/face injuries and wrist/thumb injuries. The knee is the most commonly injured joint, resulting in about one third of all ski injuries. Injury rates and type vary with uncontrollable factors such as weather and snow conditions. Proper equipment and conditioning, however, are factors that we can control.


When skiers examine their equipment, it’s important to make sure that:

-Skis, poles, and boots are in good condition and properly sized for the individual’s weight, size and skill.

-Binding are adjusted and tested prior to each ski season.

-Helmets are properly fitted and checked for damage prior to the ski season.

-Sunglasses, goggles and sunscreen are part of one’s safety equipment.



Skiers can increase their safety and performance this winter by starting with a pre-conditioning program that includes four components: endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. Aerobic fitness is the key to preventing the end of the day injuries (the last run). Cross training, which includes multiple sports and activities in the conditioning regimen, has become popular, especially with a seasonal sport such as skiing. Strength and flexibility focusing on the legs and trunk are vital in injury prevention specific for skiing. Balance training has been shown to be the single most important exercise for preventing ACL tears in women.


A typical conditioning program can include:


1. Aerobic fitness (5 days/week for at least 30 minutes)




-Elliptical or stair climber

-Jumping rope



2. Strength (3 days/week, 2 sets of 60 seconds each)

-Leg press

-Wall squats

-Hamstring curls

-Toe raises

-Lateral leg raises


3. Flexibility (daily, 2 sets of 60 seconds each)

-Hamstring stretches

-Achilles stretches

-Quad stretches


4. Balance Exercises (daily, 2 sets of 60 seconds)

-Standing on one leg, perform mini squats

-Single leg hop, holding for five (5) seconds, repeat


In addition to a conditioning program, skiers need to adequately warm up – an activity that is often neglected with skiing. No one would think of running out on the football field or onto the basketball court without warming up first. But with skiing, one typically sits in the car for an hour or more to get to the slopes, and then stands in line for tickets and for the lift, before finally sitting on the chair for several minutes. By the time one has arrived on the top of the hill, he or she is often stiff and cold.


It’s important for skiers to remember to warm up and stretch before starting down the hill. Often an easy, predictable run is a good idea before heading to the more challenging terrain. The few minutes spent warming up will be well worthwhile in injury prevention.

More about Knee Injuries


Every ski season, I treat many knee injuries. In the 1970′s, ankle injuries were more common, resulting from soft, leather boots. The development of stiffer boots has transferred much of the force to the knee.


The most common knee injury from skiing is the MCL (medial collateral ligament) injury. It often results from catching an edge or having the skis diverge, so that the foot is forced away from the body. This creates a distraction force on the inside of the knee. Fortunately, the MCL has a good blood supply, and can be treated non-operatively, with a period of bracing for 4-8 weeks, depending on the severity of the injury.


ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries are also common skiing injuries. They are thought to occur from the forces created by the long lever arm of the ski that are transmitted to the knee ligaments. Commonly, the ACL is injured with a hyperextension mechanism. In expert skiers, we see ACL injuries when saving a backwards fall by a strong quadriceps contraction, pulling the tibia (lower leg) forward with enough force to rupture the ACL. Recent boot and binding technology has reduced the rate of ACL injuries. In young, active individuals, the ACL injuries often require surgical reconstruction. Success rates from surgery are excellent, but require aggressive rehabilitation and six months of recovery time before one can return to skiing or other twisting or pivoting sports.


No one wants to go down the path of surgery and recovery. But too many people wait to think about preparing for skiing until half way through the season, when snow has already accumulated and they are on their way to the top of the mountain. Many times, this is too late. Although injury is a risk we all take when participating in any sport, a conscientious approach to skiing – including equipment inspection and conditioning – will minimize the occurrence. Not only will these precautions reduce injury rate, but they will also enhance performance, decrease fatigue, and ultimately, increase one’s enjoyment of the sport.


If you believe you are suffering from a knee-related injury and need specialized orthopedic care, the surgeons at Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle provide excellent treatment options available for you.  Please feel free to contact OSS at (206) 633-8100 to schedule an appointment.