Winter Sledding Safety for Children

   By Felicia Finnegan, PA-C and

         Edwin King, M.D., F.A.A.P.



Pediatric AllianceSt. Clair



True story: Walking through the woods with sleds in tow to a giant popular sledding hill in Frick Park, I was pelted with questions from my 5-year-old and 10-year-old. “Why do we have to wear helmets, nobody else wears helmets?!” The pediatrician’s logical explanation followed. Hearing this, the children, unimpressed, remained helmetless and disgruntled. As we approached the busy, massive, steep sledding hill, there was an ambulance at the top. The children, now quite silent, looked up to the ambulance, then looked back at me — repeatedly. I remained silent as we watched the stretcher being loaded into the ambulance. We asked a passerby what had happened. “Some sort of head injury, maybe concussion, maybe worse, they do not know.” The children quickly looked at me and then the ambulance a few more times, jaws agape. They scurried to put their helmets on as soon they could, and have not questioned wearing helmets while sledding since that day.

Unfortunately, most parents do not have the luxury of an immediate, poignant example to impress their children to follow safety recommendations. Nonetheless, it is our responsibility as parents to keep them safe. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended helmets for sledding, let’s review some important safety precautions for winter.

Remember as a child the excitement you had of tearing apart the winter bins in the attic looking for matching gloves and snow pants and boots (that hopefully still fit) in angst to celebrate the first snow fall. Winter is here and in Western Pennsylvania there will be no shortage of snowfall. Children of all ages will be participating in sledding and it is our responsibility as adults, parents, and providers to assure their safety.

In 2014, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 52,000 injuries related to sledding, snow tubing, and tobogganing were treated at emergency rooms and doctors’ offices. Injuries associated with sledding ranged from bumps and bruises to broken bones, head and neck injuries, hypothermia, frost bite, and death.

Another study showed that 64% of pediatric hospitalizations from sledding injuries were from hitting trees. In addition, researchers found:

— 37% of pediatric hospitalizations involved head injuries, with more than two-thirds (70%) requiring ICU admission, and permanent disability resulting in 10%.

— 33% if injured children had fractures, half of which were severe enough to require surgery.

— 19% had internal organ damage.


Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the recommended gear and safety suggestions to ensure a fun time in the snow this winter season.