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Shoveling Snow Injures Thousands Each Year

Back Injuries, Fractures, and Heart Problems Are Among the Risks From Shoveling Snow

Time for a New Shovel?

Could a redesign of the snow shovel head off some overexertion injuries? Many experts say yes. The basic snow shovel hasn't changed much since it was invented over 100 years ago. Handgrips are often lacking, and the shovel length typically is too short for most users. Steel shovels are heavy. This inefficient, non-ergonomic design forces users to bend and twist while heaving snow, raising the risk for spine injury.

Adapting a shovel so that the pole is longer, adjustable, and curved can decrease the amount of bending needed, researchers say. Studies have shown that curved-shaft shovels can help lower your risk of muscle injury. More user-friendly shovels are becoming available and are typically made of lighter materials such as plastic or lightweight aluminum.  

New shovel or not, before you head out to shovel snow, check with your doctor. Your doctor might nix the idea if you have heart problems or do not exercise regularly. If you get the go-ahead, be sure to follow these tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons before digging in:

  • Warm up with some light exercise first.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes.
  • Pace yourself and take frequent breaks.
  • Try to push the snow out of the way instead of lifting it.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side because the twisting motion involved may stress your back.

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