Dec 26, 2013 8:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Children and sleds go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows; however, sledding lands more than 20,000 children in emergency rooms each year, and the majority of the cases are head injuries. But with precautions, you and your family can enjoy a trip or two (or a dozen) down the hill.

Gear Up

Before hitting the hills, make sure everyone is protected. Kids should wear a helmet. If you don’t have one that’s designed for winter sports, at least strap on a bicycle helmet to protect their noggins in case of a crash. Be sure to dress appropriately, as well. Warm, waterproof layers are essential to staying dry and avoiding hypothermia, but avoid wearing scarves or anything that can get caught in the sled. Pack a change of clothes for the kids in case they get soaked. 

Choose Wisely

When it comes to sledding, it’s all in the hill. The daredevils in your family may want to run to the steepest slope they can find, but resist that urge. Instead, opt for a hill that isn’t too steep and has a long flat area at the bottom for coming to a stop. Avoid hills with lots of trees or rocks, and keep a safe distance from streets and parking lots. 

Ride Right

Follow a few simple guidelines to keep everyone safe:

  • Avoid sledding at night. It’s best to go out during the day, when visibility is good.
  • Always sit face-forward, feet-first in your sled. Never go down headfirst—that’s how head injuries occur.
  • Go down the hill one person at a time.
  • When trekking back up the hill, stay to the side and out of the way of other sledders.
  • If you find yourself unable to stop while on a sled, roll off and move away from it.

winter sports kids health prevention sports medicine

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