Winter is quickly approaching and with it, ice skating rinks are getting ready to open up for the season. Here are some important tips to avoid injuring yourself and ending up spending the winter in physical therapy—or worse, recovering from a broken bone or two.

Bundle up against falls.

Falls can wound more than just your pride. While you may not think you need the extra padding since you'll be moving around, stick with a poufy coat and make sure that you have a hat. It won't provide much insulation if you hit the ice, but it's better than nothing. If you do find yourself de-stabilizing, try to stick out your rear and fall on your backside, where you've got the most padding. Don't try to stop a fall by windmilling your arms, because that will just destabilize you further. If you do fall forward, try to keep your arms loose and don't extend them to break your fall—that's a sure way to end up with a broken wrist.

Consider a knee guard.

Unless you skate all the time, protecting your knees is important too. A knee guard can help you avoid some of the more common injuries associated with figure skating. If you take a light fall, you may get away with just bruises. A more serious fall, however, can knock the patella, or kneecap, out of alignment. If it's been a while since you went ice skating (like last winter) and you aren't really in shape for it, limit high-impact moves like jumps and turns that require you to lift off the ice. Patellofemoral stress syndrome and patellar tendonitis are common injuries from jumps and spins, and they can leave you with long-standing pain around your knee that can require intensive rehabilitation therapy or even surgery to fix.

Check the equipment.

If you're going skating for the first time or your children are, spend some time prior to the first trip working the stiffness out of the leather part of your skates. Simply fold and massage the leather like you are conditioning a baseball glove until you achieve a little flexibility in the skate. A boot that's too stiff can cause your ankles to be unable to move properly, which throws off the rest of your body as well, leading to falls. Make sure that skates are laced properly—which means that they're a little tighter than you'd normally tie a boot. Experts recommend testing the laces with the 2-finger Rule, which means no more than 2 fingers should be able to fit between the tongue of the boot and your ankle. You should also avoid over-sharpening the blades, which can lead to a "pulling" effect that will make it harder for you to stop.

Remember RICE.

For minor injuries, remember RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If that doesn't relieve the pain and get you back in motion within a couple of days, see your physician and have any necessary x-rays taken to determine if you have more serious injuries going on. It may be necessary to set you up for a little rehabilitation therapy even if you just have a serious sprain.

Get out there and enjoy the winter season and all it brings—but be cautious if you plan on making ice skating part of this year's memories. For more information, contact local professionals like Staten Island Physical Therapy PC.