Published on February 08, 2016

Don’t let your kids slide into troubleDon’t let your kids slide into trouble

In the Centerville neighborhood where I grew up, there was a hill that was perfect for sledding. It had enough of a slope that you could get some pretty good speed going down hill. At least, it felt fast to a bunch of 10 year olds.

There was one trick to the hill. Just before it flattened, you had to steer to the right or you’d end up in a patch of trees. One day a new kid in the neighborhood didn’t make the turn. The result: one broken arm.

The verdict came from the neighborhood moms: No more sledding on what the kids called Death Hill.

According to Janelle Laudone, MD, a hospitalist in the pediatric department and ER at Cape Cod Hospital, my friends and I were violating a number of safety rules. We were lucky that a broken arm was the worst thing that ever happened.

“Sledding should be supervised so that adults are aware of what’s happening and can easily help, if needed,” said Dr. Laudone.

“Find a spot that’s clear of trees, stumps or fences. When picking a spot it’s important that it doesn’t end at the edge of a road. Some hills end at the side of a pond that might look frozen but won’t hold a child’s weight.

“No roughhousing should be allowed on sleds. You should always sit feet first so that if there is an impact, it’s the feet rather than the head.”

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) cites statistics showing that more than 52,000 people were treated for sledding, snow tubing and tobogganing-related injuries in 2014. Children 14 and younger were most likely to be injured. The most common sledding injuries are bruises, cuts and broken bones, but head and neck injuries also occur, especially among children 6 and younger.

The Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital said in a news release that “children younger than 5 can go down smaller hills with an adult, but older children should sled solo and avoid tying sleds together or hanging onto each other. The best way for a toddler to enjoy the snow is to be pulled along a flat surface by an adult.

“Although it might seem fun to go down a hill head-first, backwards or on your stomach, sitting upright and sledding feet-first is the safest way. If you lose control of your sled, let go and roll to the side rather than trying to hold onto the sled and ending up with an injury. And never ride in a sled pulled by a motorized vehicle.

“When sledding in groups, children should be taught to walk back up the hill off to the side – away from where others are sledding down – to avoid collisions.”

The AAOS makes the following recommendations:

  • Young children should wear a fitted helmet while sledding.
  • The sled should have runners and a steering mechanism, which is safer than toboggans or snow disks.
  • Sledding in the evening should only be done in well-lighted areas.
  • Plastic sheets or other materials that can be pierced by objects on the ground should not be used for sledding.
  • Sledders should wear layers of clothing for protection from injuries and cold.