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If you are going to sled – sled safely


Shawn Bowker, R.N., C.E.N., C.R.R.N.

If sledding down a snow-covered hill is your family’s idea of fun this winter, make sure you know how to sled smart before heading outside. Sledding is a popular wintertime activity, but it’s important that you and your children know the risks associated with this fun activity. While sledding is a great winter activity, it isn’t risk-free. From considerations of where to sled, to how to sled, to what to wear, taking safety measures while sledding can prevent the occurrence of serious injury.

Making safety a priority

More than 50-percent of sled-related emergency department visits in the U.S. are due to head and neck injuries, according to the journal Pediatric Emergency Care. That’s why safe sledding starts with wearing the proper sledding equipment including warm clothes that allow for movement and a helmet, such as a bicycle helmet.

When your family is ready to sled, taking the time to look over the sledding location can help prevent injuries. Look for a big hill with a gentle slope to avoid collision with trees, bushes or other barriers such as fences. While you may think you can navigate away from these landmarks, the high speeds a sled or inner tube can reach may make slowing down or turning impossible.

Some common injuries seen at in Flagstaff Medical Center’s Emergency Department associated with sledding include:

• Back fractures
• Broken arms
• Dislocated shoulders
• Head trauma
• Ages of patients range from toddlers to the elderly

Educating yourself and your children can keep you out in the snow instead of inside the hospital with a troublesome injury. FMC’s Trauma Services and the Safe Kids Coalition in Coconino and Maricopa Counties are working together to decrease the number of injuries experienced while sledding. Sledding is fun, but it’s more fun when parents have the peace of mind that their children are safe.

Your Injury-Free Checklist

If you and your child want to have fun out it in the snow, it’s important you do so properly. Take a few minutes to read over this checklist before you head outside:

• Always wear a helmet and be sure to fasten the strap.
• If you experience a fall, replace your helmet as soon as possible.
• Never sled headfirst — sled on your knees instead.
• Never go sledding in the dark or during a snowstorm.
• Look for bare spots in the snow that can stop your sled suddenly.
• Don’t sled over jumps or moguls. 
• Never sled close to trees or large rocks.
• Put padded cushions on your sled to reduce back injury.
• Sled in a designated area.

Shawn Bowker, R.N., C.E.N., C.R.R.N., is the Injury Prevention coordinator for Flagstaff Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Center.

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