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Dr. Kevin Campbell: Avoiding sledding injures in the snow and ice

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Kids enjoying the snow in Raleigh. Courtesy of a WNCN viewer. Kids enjoying the snow in Raleigh. Courtesy of a WNCN viewer.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

With allthe snow and ice we have seen over the last few days, many families are out andenjoying fast sledding rides down steep hills, but sledding can be dangerous and can result in broken bones and headinjuries.

According tothe U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are more than 160,000sledding, snow tubing and tobogganing-related injuries treated at hospital emergencyrooms, doctors' offices and clinics per year. The total medical, legal and liability, pain and suffering and workloss-related costs were more than $4 billion.

Youngchildren are especially vulnerable to injuries. They have proportionally larger headsand higher centers of gravity than older children and teens. This means their coordinationhas not fully developed and they can have difficulty avoiding falls andobstacles.

When we gosledding or walk outside during the snow or ice, we must be extremelycareful. Commoncold-related injuries include muscle sprains and strains, as well as hypothermia. Frostbite and sunburn can also be a big concern.

Mostcommon snow related injuries are slips and falls—sledding accounts for a lot ofthese injuries and many can be prevented by using good common sense.

Otherinjuries include those associated with shoveling snow—back injuries, falls andheart attacks are common.

The most commoninjuries associated with sledding are head injuries. Research by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that 30percent of children hospitalized following a sledding injury sufferedsignificant head injuries and 10 percent of these children had a permanentdisability.

The most common cause of injury was their sledhitting a tree, occurring in 63.5 percent of the cases. Thirty-seven percent(20) suffered a head injury, with 70 percent of these children admitted to the intensive care unit. Other injuries included broken bones and vertebral/backinjuries.

These are some good sledding safety tips:

GETTING READY TO SLED

  • Always wear a helmet to prevent head injuries.Multi-sport and bicycle helmets are good options.
  • Sleds that can be steered may be safer than flatsheets, snow discs, toboggans and tubes.
  • Make sure children are dressed warmly and thatthey are wearing gloves and boots.

SLEDDING TIPS

  • Avoid sledding in areas with trees, fences and lightpoles or on rocky hills.
  • Teach children to have an adult with them whenthey go sledding.
  • Always go down the hill feet first.
  • Learn how to stop and turn the sled by using yourfeet.
  • Have only the recommended number of passengers ona sled at one time.
  • Do not sled in the street or on a highway.
  • Never ride a sled being pulled by a car, ATV,snowmobile or other motorized vehicle.
  • Avoid sledding on driveways, hills or slopes thatend in a street, drop off, parking lot, river or pond.

It is easier to see when yousled during the day. If you are going to sled at night, make sure the hill iswell lit and that it is easy to see any potential hazards.

No oneshould sled headfirst. All participants should sit in a forward-facingposition, steering with their feet or a rope tied to the steering handles ofthe sled.

So what's the bottom line? Use good judgment. Choose a safe hill to sled that is free oftrees or other obstacles. Don't sled ona city street. Dress warmly and inlayers.  Take frequent breaks and makesure an adult is supervising.

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