Each year 35,000
children across the United States are treated in hospital emergency
rooms for sledding injuries.
position on the sled is related to the type of injury. Children under
5 suffer the most severe injuries to the head, neck, face and abdomen.
These children typically ride a metal runner sled, laying on their stomachs
and controlling the steering mechanism with their hands. Injuries most
commonly occur when sled and rider collide with a tree or a telephone
pole. Hands and fingers are often injured when caught under the runners,
or between the sled and another object.
tend to ride sleds, toboggans and inner tubes in a sitting position.
A hard bump on rough terrain can send the rider up in the air and down
again with great force. Because of their position on the vehicle, these
riders often suffer injuries to the spine and risk spinal cord injury.
Limb injuries also are more common in older children who tend to use
their arms and legs to break a fall or avoid an obstacle.
The high incidence
of sledding injuries is related to a dangerous combination of speed
(sleds can easily reach 10-20 mph), bumpy or icy terrain, a steep hill,
lack of good control and obstacles in the sledder's course. The challenge
is, if you take too much out of this equation, you're not sledding.
children's downhill vehicle carefully.
a steering mechanism are the most dangerous since the rider has no
way of avoiding objects in his or her path.
Consider a metal runner sled over a plastic sled. Runner sleds elevate
the rider off the ground and away from small, stationary objects.
A plastic sled, by nature of its design, will strike anything in its
inspect the terrain of the hill before allowing children to use it.
should be smooth. A bumpy hill may throw the rider into the air or
off the sled, causing the child to land on the ground or in the path
of another speeding sled.
with trees, telephone poles, large rocks or fences on the slope or
at the base of the slope. Hills should be wide and free of obstructions.
Avoid hills whose slope ends at a road or area with motor vehicle
Avoid sledding on icy surfaces. A slick surface increases the speed
of the sled while further reducing the rider's control.
young children to sled feet first
This is the
best way to protect children from crashing or being thrown head first
at 10-20 mph.
should wear insulated, waterproof boots and gloves and well-padded
clothing. Protective helmets are a must. Kids are used to wearing
helmets for other activities. Sledding should be added to the list.
children and talk with them about sledding safety
who understand the risks are more likely to exercise good judgment
when sledding, and less likely to be reckless.