Snow in our Rocky Mountain region means it’s time to slide down hillsides,
on new-fangled flying saucers and snow tubes, or time-honored toboggans
and classic Flexible Flyers. But just because sledding is a tradition
in northern climes doesn’t mean we should continue down the slippery
slope of unsafe sledding.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 52,000
sledding injuries were treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctors'
offices and clinics in 2014, with the majority occurring in children age
14 and younger.
“Every week, we see at least one patient due to a sledding accident,”
said Sam Miller, Trauma Coordinator at Bozeman Health Emergency Department.
Those injuries range from sprained or broken wrists and legs to fractured
skulls and spines or injured spleens.
But there are practices your downhill sliders can stick with while showing
off their snow slithering skills that will help keep them safe.
First and foremost is ensuring the sledding path and run out at the bottom
are clear of obstacles, including trees, fences, big rocks and other sledders,
since most injuries are caused by collisions. The hill should not be too
steep or end in a street, parking lot or pond; it should have a long flat
area for gliding to a stop. Hills should be snow-covered, not icy, for
better control and softer landings.
Next, encourage or require your kid to wear a helmet, just like when they
bike, snow- or skateboard. The Center for Injury Research and Policy found
that head injuries account for about one-third of sledding injuries, so
wearing a helmet is always a good idea, Miller said. They should dress
for the weather, waterproof and warm, without scarves or any dangling
item that can get caught in a runner.
Don’t let kids pile up on sled built for one–it’s more
likely they will get thrown off, and make sure they take turns taking
off–multiple sledders on the run increase odds of a collision. Riders
should always sit in their sleds facing forward. Injury incidents increase
when kids sled downhill face first, backwards or standing up. When heading
back uphill for another run, stay well to the side of the sliding lane.
Finally, motors and sledding don’t mix well. Sledding on streets
or near highways could lead to collisions with vehicle traffic, and sleds
pulled by snowmobiles or ATVs can get up to unsafe speeds, causing kids
to get thrown from the sled.