As powerful blizzards hit the Midwest, leaving more than a foot of snow in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois and Missouri, many schools are closed leaving kids to enjoy extended snow days, snowball fights, snowman building and maybe even some sledding.
But before heading to the hills, SRxA’s Word on Health wants to remind parents and children that although the adrenaline from speeding down an icy hill and feeling the snow spraying your face is hard to beat, serious injuries can also occur. While sledding has this connotation of innocence but you have to recognize that there is a potential for harm.
According to the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission), each year there are more than 160,000 sledding, snow tubing and tobogganing-related injuries treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and clinics.
“There are some hidden dangers to sledding. It’s a great winter pastime, but there are risks involved. Parents need to be aware of these risks to help prevent injuries,” says Terri Cappello, MD, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Loyola University Medical Center.
In adults and older children extremity injuries such as broken fingers, wrists and ankles are the most common, while children aged 6 and under often suffer head and neck injuries. While some result in nothing more than minor concussion each year children suffer brain trauma, paralysis and even death as a result of sledding.
Over a 10 year period, the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio found an estimated 229,023 sledding injuries serious enough for ER treatment among children under 19. They also noted that:
- 26% of the injuries were fractures
- 25% were cuts and bruises
- 51% of the injuries occurred during a collision
- Collision injuries were most likely to result in traumatic brain injury
- 34% of the injuries involved the head
- 52% of the injuries occurred at a place of sports or recreation
- 31% of injuries occurred on private property
- 42.5% of injuries involved children aged 10 -14
- 59.8% of all injuries were sustained by boys
- 4.1% of all emergency department visits required hospitalization
“Parents don’t often think about putting a helmet on a child when they go sledding, but if the child is under the age of 6 it’s important. Also, never let your child sled head first. Injuries have been associated with the leading body part. If you lead with your head, you’re more likely to get a head injury,” warns Cappello.
Here’s a few more tips to keep kids safe while sledding:
- Adult supervision is critical. 41% of children injured while sledding are unsupervised. Ensure someone is there to assess the area and make sure it’s safe as well as to evaluate and respond should an injury occur.
- Make sure the hill is safe: that means a hill without obstacles in the sledding path, which doesn’t end near a street, parking lot, pond, or other danger
- Sledding should only be done in designated areas that are open, obstacle-free and groomed. Most injuries occur when a sled collides with a stationary object. Make sure there are no trees, poles, rocks, fences or cars in the sledding area.
- Kids should be taught to be on the lookout for other sledders and to avoid collisions.
- Use helmets to avoid injuries and wear multiple layers of clothing for protection from injuries and cold
- Always sled feet first. Sledders should sit in a forward-facing position, steering with their feet.
- Use a sled that can steer—it’s safer than flat sheets, toboggans or snow discs
Stay safe in the snow!