We sat down with Dr. Richard Teff, one of our neurosurgeons, to ask about the injuries he commonly sees over the holidays, and his ideas on how to avoid them. In addition to his practice focused on spine surgery, Dr. Teff has worked as a trauma surgeon covering emergency rooms for many years — so he has seen a lot of unusual injuries during the holidays.
Here is his list of dos and don’ts to get you through the most joyous time of the year without a visit to the Emergency Room (or Phoenix Spine) to deal with emergency back issues.
1. Stay super focused when you are driving in the car
The increased number of drivers on the road and the elevated number of drunk drivers makes the roads incredibly dangerous this time of year. Not to mention, many of the drivers on the road have often been driving for an extended period with little rest. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, 12 fatal crashes occur each year, on average, during the winter holidays. If you get behind the wheel, make sure you are well rested, super aware and don’t drive aggressively.
2. Be careful not to overdo it
During the holidays, people want to go out and do things with family they don’t routinely do – hiking, sports, etc. From a physical standpoint, be careful. Make sure you are wearing the proper clothing, and always stretch. The best advice to avoid injuries caused by your newfound athleticism is don’t push yourself too far. Keeping up with your family and friends is not worth a trip to the ER.
3. Beware of attics and ladders
People who are putting up Christmas lights, or getting decorations out of the attic, end up falling hard. 13,000 people were treated in the ER due to injuries related to holiday decorating in 2010, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. These falls often come with severe consequences for the spine.
Dr. Teff’s advice is simple: make it a two-person job. The most common mistakes happen when they are by themselves, without someone to help or be the voice of reason.
4. Drinking and hunting don’t mix
Despite what you hunters have heard, alcohol does not keep you warm! Dr. Teff has seen many hunters stumble climbing into or out of a tree after they’ve had a few beers. So if you are going hunting, enjoy the comradery of your fellow hunters but don’t enjoy a few beers while you are out. Climbing in pre-dawn darkness also doesn’t help. So if you are going before dawn or staying out after sunset, make sure to bring a headlamp.
5. Be careful skiing and snowboarding
While winter sports are fun, they also can produce unfortunate accidents. Dr. Teff always reminds patients not to ski in areas that are posted as off limits, to ski in groups, and to ski within your limits. Accidents almost always happen when people push themselves too far! Finally always, always, always wear a helmet.
Hopefully, this list will help keep you out of harm’s way this holiday season – and give you more time to enjoy your friends and loved ones, without getting (or being) a pain in the back.