Safe snow shoveling – Take precautions against injuries this time of year |

Safe snow shoveling – Take precautions against injuries this time of year

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – You could call it the only heart strength test conducted outside of a hospital. But most people call it shoveling.

If it’s done too fast with no breaks, only with your back, or by a person with hidden heart trouble, shoveling can produce a lot more than a clear driveway.

“It depends on a person’s age,” said Dr. Andrew Tang, who works at Job’s Peak Primary Care in South Lake Tahoe. “But it can cause bone and joint problems and muscle strains. Sometimes the act of shoveling snow, if people have actual heart disease, it’s enough to provoke it.”

Tang said a woman who fell while shoveling was in his office on Monday to be treated for a broken ankle. Such a fall can happen to the most cautious, but there are ways to make shoveling a little less grueling and dangerous.

Ron DuPont, 68, of Idaho, a retired psychiatrist, rents a house in South Lake Tahoe four months every year. What’s helped him most with shoveling is yoga, a discipline that involves prescribed postures and controlled breathing.

What’s key, he said, is to use both the left and right sides of the body and to develop a safe rhythm when you throw the snow.

“You’ve got to bend your knees,” DuPont said. “It’s like playing baseball or football. You need to breathe, be slow and methodical and use the whole body.”

Cezar Delos Reyes, 52, of South Lake Tahoe, has a different plan of attack. He tries not to even enter his driveway before he has had a turn with a snowblower.

“The key is to shovel when it’s still soft,” Reyes said. “Don’t even drive on it.”

But even after he’s blown all the snow off his deck and his driveway, sometimes he comes home to a surprise – a surprise that can’t be tackled with the blower. It’s call a berm, the mound of snow that plows often leave in front of a driveway.

“I go to work in the afternoon and come back from work and I’ve got a big berm,” Reyes said. “It’s real hard, packed solid and a lot of work.”

Dennis Kelly, of South Lake Tahoe, was also out Monday morning making some final touches on the snowbanks at the end of his driveway. His friend, Chuck, came by and did the bulk of the work with a snowblower.

“You’ve got to use your butt muscles and legs and get into a rhythm,” Kelly said. “The good part is that it’s been so cold that the snow is light. If you get at it when it’s powdery, you can kind of fling it.”

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