Winter injuries racking up at RI hospitals

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With every snowfall — and necessity for snow removal — comes a spike in visits to the emergency room.

“People are having more sprains and strains of their lower backs, of their arms, of their shoulders,” said Dr. Neha Raukar, an attending physician and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Rhode Island Hospital.

The higher the snow banks, the farther you have to move the snow, and that can put a lot of strain on your heart.

Between December 1 and February 16, numbers from Rhode Island Hospital, Miriam Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital combined show 97 cardiac arrests — though not all of them are related to weather conditions.

Other stats from the Lifespan hospitals (again, not all of them related to the weather):

  • 2,282 slips and falls
  • 45 cases of hypothermia
  • 21 cases of frostbite

Dr. Raukar said she and her colleagues are seeing people who have to lift “this very heavy snow, and heaving it up a couple of feet to get it over the last week’s snow. And they’re having heart attacks from this, and not ‘subtle’ heart attacks, some people are having really big heart attacks,” she said.

She says you should not tackle it all at once. And if you have a heart condition, don’t shovel at all; get help.

A snowblower is not an injury-free alternative, either. Dr. Raukar says patients have tried to unclogging their machines, and “actually turning off their snowblower, but there’s enough tension left in the machine that when they un-jam it, the machine spins one more time — and cuts off a finger or two.”

Frostbite is also avoidable. Dr. Raukar says you should always dress for the worst, expecting to be left out in the cold for an extended period of time — as if you were locked out of your house, your car broke down, or your bus route was canceled.

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