If you live in an area that gets snow during the winter, sledding is probably a part of your family’s winter activities. Sledding can be great fun, but it can also lead to head, neck, and back injuries if you aren’t careful. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there were more than 160,00 sledding, snow tubing, and tobogganing-related injuries treated in 2007 alone.
Most sledding injuries are preventable if you take the proper precautions. If you don’t put safety first when sledding, you put yourself at risk for injuries. Head and neck injuries are a particular concern while sledding, as serious cases can lead to disability or even death. Don’t let injuries get in the way of your winter fun. These tips will help you and your family sled safely.
Use the Right Gear
- Children should always wear a helmet when sledding–no exceptions! Sleds can reach high speeds, and a blow to the head at those speeds could result in a concussion or more serious head injury. A well-fitted helmet can greatly reduce the likelihood of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries if an accident does happen.
- Don’t use any makeshift substitutes for a sled, such as cardboard boxes, plastic sheets, and lunch trays. These items are not designed for sledding and are dangerous if used for that purpose. In addition to being difficult to steer, softer and thinner items like plastic sheets and cardboard boxes can easily be pierced by objects on the ground. While that may not result in a head or spine injury, it can certainly leave you with cuts and scrapes.
- Opt for a sled with runners and a steering mechanism, rather than a toboggan, snow disc, or inflatable snow tube. A sled with a steering mechanism is easier to control should there be an unexpected obstacle. While snow tubes, discs, and toboggans are designed for sliding down a snowy hill, they can be nearly impossible to steer. Snow tubes can also propel children into the air if they hit a bump. It’s best to spend a little extra money and get a much safer sled.
Choose the Right Slopes
- If possible, choose a hill that is specifically designated or designed for sledding. This will be the safest place to sled.
- Avoid sledding down public streets or hills with a road at the bottom. The roads will be slippery, and it will be difficult for cars to stop in time.
- The hill should be clear of bumps, rocks, trees, poles, and other obstacles. These hazardous objects increase the likelihood of collision and injury. You should also be on the lookout for hazards buried under the snow, like holes, roots, and tree stumps.
- Avoid sledding on a hill with hard-packed snow or ice. If you fall off the sled, the ice will make for a harder landing and increase your likelihood of injury.
Sled Correctly and Safely
- You should never sled head-first, or you will put yourself at a greater risk for a head injury. Instead, sit on the sled facing forward. Never sled while lying on your stomach, facing backward, or standing. The forward-facing position gives you the best control over the sled.
- Small children should sled with an adult. Other than that exception, sledders should go down the hill one at a time with only one person per sled to avoid collisions.
- If you see an obstacle approaching and cannot stop the sled or get out of the way fast enough, roll off the sled and out of the way of the obstacle and the sled. It is much safer to exit the sled this way than to risk a collision by staying on the sled.
Sledding is a fun winter tradition, as long as you put safety first. Follow these tips so you can worry less about serious injuries and have a good time with your family.