Feet First and Down We Go: Tips for Safe Sledding

When most people think of sledding, they think of these hills covered in children bundled up in snow suits pulling sleds and tubes up the hill only to slide down it again. People also assume most injuries in sledding are minor and only impact children.

But that’s not the case! No matter your age, there is nothing quite as tempting as a sloping hill covered in inches of fresh snow. Our Trauma Center sees serious sledding injuries every year, and a third of those injuries occur in adults. The most common injuries occur to the extremities or limbs as well as the head and face. The majority of injuries are the result of a sledder colliding with a stationary object.

The tips below are for sledders of any age. These best practices, when followed, can help everyone stay safe and outside enjoying the snow instead of inside in a hospital bed.   

Tip 1: Before sledding, take time to check the hill and area for obstructions or objects. This includes fences, rocks, poles, trees, buildings, parked vehicles, and waterways. Only sled once you are sure the area is free of these objects.

Tip 2: Stay away from hills that end in roadways or parking lots, unless they have been barricaded off from traffic. Even if ‘hardly any’ cars come through the area, it only takes one for a preventable tragedy to occur.

Tip 3: When sledding, sit or lay with your feet pointing downhill. Riding head first or backwards puts you at greater risk for injuries and can prevent you from steering or bailing before a collision.

 Tip 4: Choose a sled that fits the needs of the rider. Sleds that steer are great for avoiding potential collisions. For small children, find sleds that allow for two riders so that an adult or older child can help them steer. Prevent multiple children from riding on a sled together if it wasn’t designed for that purpose.

Tip 5: Know when to bail and how to do it safely. If there is a risk of collision, ending up in an unsafe area, or there is no control over the sled, it is important to keep yourself safe and roll off the sleep. Use your arms to protect your face and eyes when rolling.

Tip 6: Have children under the age of 12 wear a winter sport helmet while sledding. Sleds go an average speed of 19 mph downhill and an impact between a child’s head and a stationary object at that speed can result in serious injuries.

Tip 7: Think twice. Sledding can bring out the inner child, but as adults, we don’t bounce back the way we did when we were younger. Before taking on any high risk stunts or sledding tricks, think ahead to what consequences could occur.

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