With another major snowstorm hitting most of the East Coast and blanketing the south in ice, it seems like there will be several more “snow days” with children (and their parents) home from school.
I have such fond memories of growing up in Washington, D.C. and the idyllic “snow days” spent outside with our Radio Flyer sleds. My brother and I would head out the door for the big hill right outside of our house which would become a mecca for the sledders. The street was fairly steep and for that reason was often closed (guess they didn’t make 4 wheel drive vehicles then?), and the hill was perfect for a fast ride that was probably ¼ mile long. The ride down was glorious, the trek back up seemed VERY long. Those were the days! We could spend hours out there, only coming in long enough to change out of wet gloves, grab a hot chocolate, and back out we went. I must say, most of the time there was very little adult supervision, and thankfully there were no “major” injuries that I recall.
With those memories in mind I decided to do a little research on sledding safety and accidents. An article in the September 2010 issue of Pediatrics reviewed sled related injuries. Did you realize that there were over 230,000 sledding injuries reported over a 10 year retrospective period, in other words more than 20,000/year and those were only those that were seen in emergency rooms. There were probably many more that went unreported as the child was seen in an urgent care, or private practice rather than ER.
Children 10 – 14 years of age were in involved in 42.5% of sledding related injuries and boys represented about 60% of all cases. WOW!
Sleds can reach speeds of up to 20-25 mph and head trauma is one of the biggest concerns. It is reported that the head was the most commonly injured body part (I feel lucky that I survived those sled races) and that injuries to the head were twice as likely to following a collision. Children 4 years of age and younger were 4 times more likely to sustain a head injury.
Other injuries reported from sled related accidents included fractures, contusions and abrasions. In this study about 4% of cases required hospitalization and of this number nearly half were due to fractures while about ¼ were due to traumatic brain injuries.
The injuries were more common when toboggans, snow tubes or discs were used than with traditional sleds that have a steering mechanism. Another interesting finding was that many of the injuries occurred due to the fact that the sled was being pulled by a motorized vehicle which resulted in more collisions.
As you well know, the advent of helmets has really helped to prevent injuries from biking, and helmets are now recommended for sledding, skiing and snowboarding. A report from the consumer product safety commission showed a 58% reduction in head injuries among children less than 15 years of age after helmets were used for skiing and snowboarding. As more and more people wear helmets for these activities one would hope to see a decrease in injuries reported from sledding.
To ensure safety while sledding make sure that there is parental/adult supervision at all times. Sledding on streets should be discouraged and never sled where a hill meets a pond which may not yet be frozen. Sledding slopes should be free of tress and other obstacles that might cause collisions. Children should sit up and face forward and never sled head first.
Sleds should never be pulled by a motorized vehicle, which includes a snow mobile. Sleds with the potential to rotate like discs (I guess that is the flying saucer of old) and snow tubes may carry significant risks, and should be discouraged.
With 49 of 50 states currently reporting have snow “somewhere” on the ground make the winter sledding safety a priority and go buy a helmet and have fun.
That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.
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