Snow is piled high and kids are out of school. It’s the perfect combination for hours of sledding. But some warn hitting the hills without precaution can lead to injury.
The kids may not be happy about it but some health-care professionals recommend they wear helmets.
A recent study of sledding-related injuries found about 21,000 kids are hurt each year — a high number considering that, in most states, kids can play in the snow only a few times a year. And they’re not all mild injuries. Young sledders, especially those using inflatable snow tubes, are at risk for traumatic brain injury.
Lara McKenzie of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio wrote the recent study on sledding mishaps. She said many injuries can be prevented by wearing a helmet, the same type snow boarders wear.
McKenzie said head injuries are twice as likely when sledders don’t check to see what is at the bottom of the hill before taking the plunge.
“A lot of kids were crashing into trees, fences, lamp posts and other obstacles that were in the path,” she said. “And they need to have enough room at the end of the hill or the end of the run so they don’t end up stopping in the street or the highway.”
The study found children between 10 and 14 sustained most of the injuries. Boys represent well over half of all the documented cases.
Guy Fried of the Jefferson Health System’s Magee Rehab Center said he sees adolescents with serious injuries every winter because they don’t think ahead. He said most head and spinal injuries can be prevented by simply going down the hill feet first.
“There is a huge absorption of shock from your head to your spine. The head and the spine cannot compress very much so they’re at risk of fracture,” Fried said. “There are certainly skull injuries or brain injuries or spine injuries that occur because the body’s got quite a bit of weight behind it.”
Freed said a fractured ankle is easier to fix than a skull fracture. According to the study, sledders hurt their heads most frequently.