Sledding Poses Significant Risk of Head Injury in Kids

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BOSTON — Sledding can be a fun winter activity for kids, but the pastime is not without its dangers, pediatricians say.

Kids that come to the hospital after sledding accidents commonly have head injuries, and some are permanently disabled, a new study suggests.

Parents should survey the snowy course for possible risks and consider equipping their kids with helmets before sledding, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the researchers say.

However, the study was conducted at a single hospital and the results may not necessarily apply to the country as a whole.

The findings were presented today (Oct. 15) at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in Boston.

Sledding dangers

Dr. Richard Herman, a pediatric surgeon at the University of Michigan, and colleagues reviewed all cases of hospitalization due to sledding injuries at their facility between 2003 and 2011.

Over the eight-year period, 52 children were hospitalized for sledding injuries. The most common way children were injured was when their sleds hit a tree. Twenty kids (37 percent) suffered head injuries, and 70 percent of these children were admitted to the intensive care unit. Six patients lost consciousness and fractured their skulls.

Ten percent of patients suffered permanent disability, including mental and hearing impairments.

Injuries increasing?

Hospitalizations for sledding injuries also increased over the study period. Of the 52 cases reported, 20 occurred in the last two years of the study. Faster sled designs and more risky behaviors in children may be responsible for this increase, Herman told MyHealthNewsDaily.

The results support the need for public education campaigns that encourage the use of helmets while sledding, the researchers say. The use of helmets in skiing has been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by 45 percent, Herman said.

Parents should also be aware of the potential dangers of a sled course, including trees, he said.

Pass it on: Children should wear helmets while sledding to avoid head injuries.

This story was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow MyHealthNewsDaily staff writer Rachael Rettner on Twitter @RachaelRettner. Find us on Facebook.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.