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The Willows Pediatrics Blog

Sledding: Winter Fun or Dangerous Past-time?

sledding safety

photo via wikimedia.org

It has been quite a winter so far here in southeastern Connecticut! Snow, slush, sleet … and more snow! With all of the winter weather and school closings, families have had more opportunities than ever to enjoy some favorite winter activities such as ice skating, skiing and snowman-building! Another activity that seems to be on everyone’s snow-day “to do” list is sledding. And while we know that sledding is a quintessential New England activity, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that sledding-related injuries are more common than one might think.

According to a recent article in Pediatrics, more than 20,000 children annually are treated in hospital emergency rooms for sledding injuries. Some other noteworthy statistics include:

  • Children 10 to 14 years of age sustained 42.5% of sledding-related injuries;
  • Boys represented 59.8% of all cases
  • The head was the most commonly injured body part (34.1%), and injuries to the head were twice as likely to occur during collisions as through other mechanisms.
  • The most frequent injury diagnoses were fractures (26.3%), followed by contusions and abrasions (25.0%).
  • Traumatic brain injuries were more likely to occur with snow tubes than with other sled types.

According to the study’s co-author, Lara McKenzie, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, “Two of the main factors that contribute to sledding-related injuries are the environment and locale. To reduce the risk of injury, sledding areas should be clear of trees and other obstacles and should have sufficient run-out areas away from streets.”

In addition, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has put together a list of ways to help prevent sledding injuries. They include the following: (1) supervise your child; (2) encourage children to wear a fitted helmet; (3) avoid evening sledding; (4) use a sled with a steering mechanism; (5) make sure your child is facing forward and sitting; and (6) wear layers of clothing to protect from injury and cold.

Experts and ER physicians also recommend that children do not walk up the same paths that other children are sledding down, and that they move out of the way of oncoming sledders. Finally, if a child is on a sled that won’t stop or might hit something, it’s best to simply roll off.

The AAP believes that more research on the prevention of sledding-related injuries is warranted, particularly regarding the impact of helmets in reducing injury rates. They do note, however, that the use of sledding products that may reduce visibility (such as snow tubes) should be discouraged.

With these facts and recommendations in mind, parents can determine when and if it’s safe for their own children to go sledding. If you want to discuss this or have any questions, feel free to contact us at Willows Pediatrics any time!

Enjoy the rest of your winter! Stay warm … and be safe!