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Safety and Wellness

Experts Call for Children to Wear Helmets While Sledding

Before heading out to a sledding hill, children should strap on a helmet. That’s because sledding injuries can be just as severe as skiing or snowboarding injuries, say Gillette Children’s and Regions Hospital pediatric trauma doctors. The safety alert comes after reviewing data of children who were seen at four area emergency departments including the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center at Regions and Gillette because of sledding, skiing and snowboarding injuries.

The medical review found that head injuries accounted for nearly one-third of all sledding-related emergency department visits. The frequency of head injuries in children while sledding, skiing and snowboarding and the severity of injuries were similar – enough evidence, doctors say, to call for children to wear a helmet any time they go sledding. Sledding in this study included the use of snow tubes, toboggans and traditional sleds.

“Skiers and snowboarders are getting the message. Over the past decade helmet use is up and injuries are being prevented, but we’re not paying enough attention to sledders,” says Michael McGonigal, MD, Director of Trauma Services at Regions and Gillette. “We want families to be aware of the dangers of sledding and what they can do reduce the risk of injury.”

Reviewed data was collected from about 150 patients aged 5-19 who were treated for injuries sustained while sledding, downhill skiing or snowboarding from November 2013 to March 2015.

Last winter, Shaleah Husted learned about the dangers of sledding without a helmet when her then 9-year-old son, Johsaun, sustained a traumatic brain injury after smashing into a bed of rocks at a sledding hill. Johsaun was bleeding from the head and unconscious after the accident. He was rushed to the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center at Regions and Gillette where he faced dizziness, vomiting and memory issues. Although his health has improved during the past year, Johsaun continues to struggle with short term memory loss and vision problems.

“It took the accident for us to realize how dangerous sledding can be,” Husted says. “Families should take extra safety precautions including wearing a helmet. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

If a child is injured on a sledding hill, parents should assess the situation and provide first aid if necessary. If symptoms or pain worsen, parents should schedule an appointment with a health care provider. For serious injuries, parents should immediately take their child to the emergency room or call 911.

NOTE: McGonigal, Shaleah and Johsaun discussed the results of the study and importance of safety while sledding during a press conference. Watch the press conference via our Facebook Live stream. You can also read and watch media recaps of the event on Minnesota Public Radio, KARE11, WCCO, FOX9, WCCO-Radio and KSTP.