Snow and cool temperatures don’t have to be synonymous with children glued to computer screens and television sets. From skiing and snowboarding to hockey, ice skating and sledding – there are plenty of opportunities for kids to get outdoors for some fun and exercise during winter months. Children who participate in winter activities, however, are still at risk of sustaining a concussion, or even worse, a more severe traumatic brain injury.
Fortunately, there are a few preventative measures parents can use to make sure their child stays safe, says Angela Sinner, D.O., a pediatric rehab specialist and concussion and brain injury expert at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.
“Kids need to get outside and exercise to stay healthy year-round – even when there is snow on the ground and temperatures cool,” Sinner says. “Of course, we also want to keep our children safe, and similar to warm weather activities, there are measures you can take during winter months to prevent injuries.”
Sinner recommends the following tips to avoid injuries, particularly brain trauma:
- Wear protective equipment–such as helmets, pads and eye protection.
- Monitor and prevent contact. Don’t allow hits to the head or rough checking in hockey and other contact sports.
- Dress for the occasion. If your child is going outside, make sure they’re dressed appropriately warm and comfortable to avoid cold weather injury.
- Stick to skill level. If it’s your child’s first time on the slopes, make sure they avoid the black diamond.
- Keep a watchful eye: Whether it’s looking for a potentially dangerous tree on a sledding hill or checking your yard for icy patches, take a thorough review of the surroundings.
- Take a break – to warm up, rest achy muscles and stay hydrated. Fatigue can lead to unnecessary accidents.
If a child does bump their head, it’s important to keep a close eye on them for any symptoms of brain injury, Sinner says. If parents notice any abnormal symptoms such concentration problems, headache, loss of memory, dizziness or ringing in the ears, they should immediately schedule an appointment with a health care provider. For more serious cases, parents should take the child to the emergency room or call 911.