From Ladder-Related Shoulder Mishaps to Snow-Skiing Leg Fractures, Here are Common Holiday Injuries

Many common holiday activities can cause serious injuries — primarily among them putting up or taking down outdoor lighting while using a ladder. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more than 60,000 visits to doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and clinics for injuries related to holiday decorating, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Since the pandemic, with families spending even more time at home, such injuries from hanging lights and decorations have only increased, according to Charles Jordan, M.D., an orthopedic trauma surgeon with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute.

Charles Jordan, M.D., an orthopedic trauma surgeon with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute.

“I see a lot of fractures related to the shoulder,” explains Dr. Jordan. “I also see many wrist fractures because when people fall they tend to outstretch their hand to try and break their fall. We also see a lot of foot and ankle injuries in people who fall off of ladders and come down feet first.”

Even though ladder-related injuries spike during the holidays, they’ve been plentiful since last year because more people stuck at home started working on delayed projects. “Injuries due to falls from ladders and roof repairs have been increasing because people were trying to do things around their house that they’ve been meaning to do for forever,” said Dr. Jordan.

Ladder safety is crucial for everyone to follow, he said. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has compiled fall prevention tips and other guidance for staying safe during the holidays.

Leg Injuries from Skiing, Snowboarding

Another major category of holiday injuries among South Floridians involves traveling to northern destinations for winter sports activities, such as snowboarding, snow skiing, snowmobiling, and sledding. All those combined account for about 200,000 nationwide visits to emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics annually, mostly during the months of December, January and February.

“After the holidays, we tend to see a big spike in patients who either come back with a fracture from having gone skiing,” said Dr. Jordan. “For example, they return from Colorado with a fracture, being told they need surgery or some follow-up. Or they could be patients who had fractures on the slopes, were operated on, and now are coming back needing somebody to follow up with. January and February are pretty big for that.”

Skiing and snowboarding injuries involve mostly fractures to the tibia, or shinbone. The lower leg is made up of two bones: the tibia and fibula. The tibia is the larger of the two and supports most of your weight. The tibia is an important part of both the knee joint and ankle joint.

“Skiers and snowboarders just get a lot of tibia fractures, and wrist fractures also to a lesser degree,” said Dr. Jordan.

Cycling Injuries Year-Round

While cycling injuries are common during all seasons in South Florida, they can increase during the winter months because of drier and milder weather, and the tendency to get an early start on back-to-fitness new year resolutions.

“Some of the most serious injuries that we see are cyclists either getting hit by cars or falling off of their bikes or something happening to them,” said Dr. Jordan. “While we see this year-round, there is probably an uptake around this time of year. It’s hard to say if it’s just because the weather tends to be really nice or because people are trying to get out and get fit again after the holidays. We definitely saw an uptick in these types of injuries at the beginning of the pandemic.”

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