Whether (or maybe we should think 'weather') you are newly acquired pass rusher James Harrison suiting up for the New England Patriots on Sunday at a sure-to-be-frigid Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts or a New York Rangers or Buffalo Sabres fan attending the NHL's annual Winter Classic outdoor game on New Year's Day at Citi Field in Queens, New York, there's one thing to pack in preparation for the sub-freezing temperatures awaiting your experience.
Pack some common sense.
That's the recommendation of experienced players, and it's backed-up by one of the leading sports medicine doctors in the Northeast, in Dr. Joshua Dines. While Dr. Dines specializes in orthopedic surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and woks as an assistant team physician for the Rangers and MLB's New York Mets, his everyday practice brings a wealth of knowledge from treating many a "weekend warrior" while he works with some of the best athletes in the world in the big leagues.
If you're a professional playing, the simplest advice is provided by Dr. Dines with the knowledge that "State of the Art" facilities, watchful Athletic Trainers and the best of the best equipment does much to stack the deck against injury. But, the common sense approach that the pro athletes will take this weekend as the Northeast USA is plunging further into the deep freeze, can work for fans of the game or devoted runners, possibly training for the Boston Marathon.
First? Dress Appropriately.
"One of the things I've always noticed from the old NFL Films highlights of the past was the baggy long-sleeve undershirts being worn by the players," said Dines in an interview conducted indoors while the thermometer read 5-degrees F outdoors. "If the apparel companies have done one thing for sports that stands out, it's the improvement in the 'body-armor' clothing they've researched and manufactured where the sweat and moisture wicks away while the material keeps you warm, especially when it's layered."
Dressing in layers is key, but the upper body and legs are far less impacted from the cold, so - like your Mom says - wear a hat, warm socks and good shoes along with proper winter gloves, to prepare for any long exposure to the cold. As Dr. Dines noted at the outset of our "Cold Take Talk," exposure to the elements can bring about dangerous frost bite but - just as important - cold weather can trigger more common injuries like pulled muscles.
Secondly, to help prevent such common injuries, Dr. Dine's second most important piece of advice was to "warm up properly" to loosen up those muscles in advance of the exposure to cold and to get body temperature and heart rates up in advance of the competition outdoors. In addition, proper hydration is still very important for athletes in training and not allowing the body to play tricks on your mind is key, as the long exposure to freezing temperatures and wind chill will win out (hypothermia) over the short burst of spirit from exercise and the exhilaration from competing.
For fans at the Patriots game or the NHL Winter Classic, proper hydration does not mean downing a base of beer! Moderation is key and the myth of drinking alcohol to stay warm overlooks the fact it is a natural cause of dehydration which can exacerbate the problems from exposure to cold. The advice? Simply drink in moderation and don't be afraid to take constant breaks from outdoor exposure to "warm-up" on the concourse or club level if your a fan attending a game. It is important to keep an eye on the kids, as well, as they'll lose body heat and are not likely to complain is they're enjoying the game.
For those weekend warriors or those training for the Boston Marathon, Dines recommends an even more basic philosophy for the dedicated athlete and that is to simply switch your workout to an indoor activity or to limit the training run to a much shorter distance and supplement it with indoor cardio (think Day Pass at a local health club).
"Not to sound cliche, but discretion is the better part of valor and you have to think about injuring yourself and a week or longer setback with a pulled muscle or worse," noted Dines to those who insist on getting in their workouts or cheering on their favorite teams in the sub-dressing weather conditions.