Winter is in full force. The temperatures are well below freezing and a blanket of white powder has covered the ground, which can only mean one thing if you are a kid: Sledding season has begun!! But if you have children, this time of year can also present you with new challenges to protecting them. While it is a fun and often enjoyable pastime you need to be aware of how to keep your kids safe and injury free while sledding. Don’t let the soft looking snow deceive you, there are between 20,000 and 90,000 sledding injuries each year in the U.S. and Canada and more than 60 deaths have occurred in the past twenty years in the U.S. While this may seem like a low number, it should warn you that sledding, although rare, can cause serious injuries. Today we simply want to advise you on what to look out for to prevent a trip to the ER and make sure your child has a long and fun winter.
- The area for sledding should be free of obstructions such as trees, rocks, and posts.
- The potential path of the sled should not cross streets, water, or any drop-offs.
- Ideally, the area chosen will be specifically designated for sledding. Never allow a sled to be pulled by a motor vehicle.
- Helmets should be worn by all children,especially those younger than 12.
- All children should have adult supervision.
- Make sure that children or adults supervising children control sledding “traffic” to make sure that active sledders don’t run into sledders who are finished or who are walking back up the hill.
- Sit on a sled facing forward. Headfirst sledding is more dangerous.
- Sledding should be done in well-lit areas, if done in the evening.
- Physical and mental fatigue may be factors that contribute to injury risk.
- Sleds with steering mechanisms are safer than unsteerable products such as toboggans or discs.
- Plastic sheets or other objects that can be penetrated by rocks or vegetation should not be used.
- Be aware of conditions.
- Hydrate regularly with water and/or warm fluids
Sledding safety can be a simple way to allow your child to enjoy one of the best winter pastimes. If you follow these simple guidelines you can ensure it stays that way. As physical therapists we treat several winter and sledding related injuries each year and almost 100% of the injuries occur because one or more of these guidelines were not followed. So keep your kids safe and warm this season and don’t let a lack of planning or supervision ruin all the fun!