For many kids, a day off from school is probably the best thing about snow. Perhaps second in their seemingly endless list of reasons why snow is great would be the opportunity to go out to play in it and, specifically, sledding. Whizzing down a snowy hill is exhilarating, but before you bundle up the kids and head out to your favorite spot, make sure you practice safe sledding.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), sledding accidents send more than 20,000 children to hospital emergency departments each year. A study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that, overall, the head was the most commonly injured body part during sledding accidents. The majority of injuries occurred during a collision and that collisions were more likely to result in traumatic brain injury (TBI). Fractures and bruising were also highly reported accidents.
Many of these injuries are preventable. By following some simple tips as recommended by the AAP and Prevention Works! Northern NJ Safe Kids/Safe Communities, children and adults can enjoy the snow.
• Sled only in safe areas. Keep sledders away from motor vehicles and never sled on a street that is open to traffic. When sledding in a park, be sure the area is free of obstructions such as trees, buildings or fences. Hills should not be too steep and should lead to a flat runoff surface.
• Sledders should wear helmets that meet federal safety standards. While experts agree that a helmet designed specifically for cold weather use is best, any helmet is better than none. Helmets should fit properly to avoid them coming loose during an impact. Children should accompany adults when helmet purchases are made to ensure they are fitted properly.
• Sleds should be in good working order and structurally sound. There should be no sharp edges, splinters or cracks. Sleds with steering capability, as opposed to tubes or discs, should be checked for proper lubrication of the steering mechanism.
• Children should always be supervised, particularly for safe-sledding techniques. Sitting up and sledding feet first is safer than lying down head first. Children should also always face forward. In addition, younger children should sled away from older ones to prevent more severe injuries if collisions occur.
• Be sure children are dressed appropriately in warm layers of close fitting clothing. Scarves should be tucked to avoid catching on equipment.
• Even though it’s cold out, it’s important to stay hydrated and to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
Robert J. Deutsch, MD, MPH, FAAP, who serves a clinical director of the pediatric emergency department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston as well as a clinical worker in the pediatric emergency department at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, says, “Regardless of age or developmental levels, winter sports are fun for the whole family. However, it is important to stay safe to ensure a full season of outdoor activities – otherwise, you and your child may be stuck indoors while everyone else is outside enjoying the fun!”