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Chill out: Avoiding sports injuries during the colder season

Aviano Air Base, Italy -- As the temperature drops during the long winter months, people may find it harder to stay fit to fight. Exercising can become more difficult and physical injuries may occur. 

"In colder weather, your body wants to keep your core body temperature regulated at 98.6 degrees," said Capt. Megan Brandt, 31st Aerospace Medicine Squadron human performance training flight commander. "When you exercise or participate in a sport, your body's circulatory system allows blood flow to working major muscle groups.
"For example, if you are running, blood flows to the muscles in your legs, and extremities such as your hands and feet end up feeling cold," she said. 

To avoid hypothermia or frostbite while exercising in the cold, Captain Brandt suggests wearing layers of clothing. 

"As your body temperature rises, you can remove layers such as gloves and hats, and still be protected from the elements," she said. 

Captain Brandt added that people can use the "COLDER" principle when preparing to go out in a cold environment. 

C - Clean: Wear clean clothing
O - Overheating: Avoid sweating under layers of clothing. This causes body temperature to drop.
L - Loose layers: Wear loose layers to promote good circulation.
D - Dry: Try to keep clothing dry. Wet clothing causes a quicker decrease in body temperature.
E - Examine: Look for signs of cold injury.
R - Repair: Take steps to fix any of the steps. 

Besides cold injuries, exercising in colder weather can cause sports injuries. 

"A lot of people get cramps and strains by not properly warming up and stretching," said Tech. Sgt. Johnny Smith, 31st Fighter Wing ground safety superintendent. "There are also a lot of sprained ankles and knee injuries due to lack of training on winter sporting equipment." 

Sergeant Smith advised people to get fully trained on the winter sport, such as skiing and snowboarding, that they are going to participate in beforehand. He also recommended taking advantage of mouth guards and goggles. 

"Last year there were nine reportable minor sports injuries, due mostly to knee sprains," Sergeant Smith said. "If you are going to pick up something new, make sure you learn it and know how to properly use and wear the equipment."