Back to Top Skip to main content

The simple – and complicated – task of shoveling snow

Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Seifridsberger shovels knee-deep snow to build a simulated hasty firing position during training exercise Ready Force Breach at Fort Drum, New York. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Andrew Carroll) Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Seifridsberger shovels knee-deep snow to build a simulated hasty firing position during training exercise Ready Force Breach at Fort Drum, New York. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Andrew Carroll)

Recommended Content:

Winter Safety | Reserve Health Readiness Program | Health Readiness | Physical Activity

Mother Nature has spoken and the winter storm has arrived. Now it’s time for the hard part: clearing a driveway or sidewalk covered in snow. Depending on the temperature and amount of snow to be moved, such a task can be daunting, and without proper precautions, painful as well. There are, however, ways to clear snow safely.

According to Army Col. Cynthia Perry, a physician at Guthrie Ambulatory Health Clinic in Fort Drum, New York, an area accustomed to harsh, snowy winters, the most important consideration when preparing to shovel snow is dressing properly for the weather. Layers of clothing for warmth, non-skid shoes or boots to help prevent falls, and gloves to protect hands and fingers, are all part of the equation.

“Ensure you’re wearing layers that can be removed or loosened, if needed,” said Perry. “Cold injury to extremities makes us less stable, certainly less dexterous, and hampers coordination of fingers and feet, creating an environment for slips, trips, and falls.” Perry also advised wearing bright colors for visibility and making sure to tell someone that you will be outdoors shoveling to ensure if a mishap occurs, help is nearby.

“Snow shoveling is akin to a vigorous aerobic workout, so a person’s overall health is key to preventing injuries,” said Army Lt. Col. Michael S. Crowell, chief, Physical Therapy, Keller Army Community Hospital and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “Someone in good physical health year-round is going to have an easier time shoveling than someone who is in poor health or not a regular exerciser.”

Snow shoveling injuries can span a wide spectrum, from the nuisance of a sore back or shoulder to a life-threatening cardiac event.

“Many people’s bodies are unaccustomed to the physical exertion required to shovel snow,” said Perry, ‘but those with heart disease risk factors, such as uncontrolled blood pressure, or people who smoke have to be extra careful.” Perry suggested that trying to carry on a conversation while shoveling snow is an effective way to check exertion level. “If you find yourself out of breath, take a break.”

According to Crowell, another group can be vulnerable to cardiac or musculoskeletal snow-shoveling injuries. “Youth doesn’t make you invincible to injury,” he said. “I’ve treated young soldiers with wrist or collarbone fractures or other injuries that could be prevented with some common sense.”

The body’s ability to adjust to cold weather is another important injury risk, especially for those unaccustomed to such climates. “This is especially true for members of the military who often deploy to a variety of locations and climates,” says Crowell. “Even learning to walk on snow and ice is a skill.”

Some additional expert tips: Try not to scoop the snow; push it instead. Break shoveling into multiple short segments to minimize exposure to the cold and to give the body time to rest and recover. Or perhaps the best option of all: find a willing helper to do the shoveling for you.

You also may be interested in...

CJCSI 3137.01D The Functional Capabilities Board (FCB)

Policy

DoD Directive 1200.17: Managing the Reserve Components as an Operational Force

Policy

This Directive establishes the overarching set of principles and policies to promote and support the management of the Reserve Components (RCs) as an operational force.

Updated Changes to Health Affairs' Policy on Dental Readiness within the Services

Policy
  • Identification #: 07-017
  • Date: 8/28/2007
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Health Readiness

DoD Directive 6200.04: Force Health Protection

Policy

This Directive establishes policy and assigns responsibility for implementing Force Health Protection (FHP) measures, on behalf of all Military Service members during active and Reserve military service, encompassing the full spectrum of missions, responsibilities, and actions of the DoD Components in establishing, sustaining, restoring, and improving the health of their forces.

Policy Guidance for Deployment-Limiting Psychiatric Conditions and Medications

Policy

This policy provides guidance on deployment and continued service in a deployed environment for military personnel who experience psychiatric disorders and/or who are prescribed psychotropic medication.

Joint Publication 4-02, Health Service Support

Policy

Uniform Policy for Meeting Mobilization-Related Medical Care Needs at Military Installations

Policy
  • Identification #: 06-012
  • Date: 5/1/2006
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Health Readiness

Periodic Health Assessment Policy for Active Duty and Selected Reserve Members

Policy

This policy explains the requirement to perform annual Periodic Health Assessments (PHAs) for all members of the Active Duty and the Selected Reserve (SELRES) members.

DoD Directive 6490.5 on Combat Stress Control Programs

Policy

Policy for Individual Medical Readiness Metrics

Policy
  • Identification #: 03-009
  • Date: 5/2/2003
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Health Readiness

Policy on Standardization of Oral Health and Readiness Classifications

Policy
  • Identification #: 02-011
  • Date: 6/4/2002
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Health Readiness

Policy Memorandum for Reserve Component Individual Medical Readiness Tracking

Policy
  • Identification #: 02-001
  • Date: 2/22/2002
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Health Readiness

Reserve Forces Periodic Dental Examination

Policy
  • Identification #: 01-025
  • Date: 2/5/2001
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Health Readiness

Joint Staff Memorandum for Deployment Health Surveillance and Readiness

Policy

Effective February 1, 1999, the uniform and stardardized health surveillance and readiness procedures described in this memorandum will be adhered to for all deployments.

DoD Instruction 6000.11, Patient Movement (PM)

Policy
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 16 - 30 Page 2 of 3

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.