Pediatricians Warn of Serious Sledding Injuries
As winter approaches, emergency medicine physicians prepare for a spike in admissions and ER visits due to winter sports related injuries. One of the riskiest winter activities for children is sledding, and new research from the American Academy of Pediatrics identifies the types and severities of commonly experienced sledding injuries as well as recommendations to prevent permanent trauma.
Researchers led by pediatrician Dr. Richard Herman identified children under the age of 18 who were seen in a regional pediatric emergency department equipped with a trauma center between the years of 2003 and 2011 due to involvement in a sledding accident. They analyzed the charts and outcomes of 52 children evaluated during this timeframe. The gender distribution of patients included 34 boys and 18 girls.
These children all presented with injuries related to a sledding accident. Over 63% of these children were injured when their sleds ran into trees, making this the most common type of sledding accident. Nearly 40% of all children seen status post sledding accident experienced a head injury. The majority of children with head injuries were admitted for close observation and monitoring into the ICU.
Many of these kids experienced other types of injuries. Seventeen children, or nearly one in three of the children seen at the trauma center, experienced broken bones from sledding accidents. Ten children experienced trauma to solid organs. Other significant injuries included fractures of the vertebra and chest trauma. Of the children who suffered from broken bones, nine had to go to the operating room to fix the fractures.
The most disturbing finding of the researchers points to long-term neurologic sequelae suffered by children who experienced head injuries from sledding accidents. Of the 20 children who suffered head injuries from sledding, three suffered permanent neurological changes. Two children experienced temporary neurological changes and required long-term rehabilitation and therapy.
Sledding may be a fun winter recreational activity, but it carries a certain amount of risk of injury. Unfortunately, severe brain injuries can result in permanent disability. Dr. Herman offers advice to reduce the risk of serious neurological injury: wear those helmets. Helmet use has been demonstrated to protect young, growing brains from blunt trauma associated with a variety of exercise and recreational activities.
Parents should monitor young children who are sledding and watch the course to evaluate hidden dangers. Since the majority of sledding injuries involve crashing into trees, parents should help their children find tree-free hills to sled upon. Children should wear helmets while they sled to reduce the risk of permanent injury and disability. If a child is injured while sledding, especially if he crashes into a tree, seek medical help to reduce the risk of permanent injury.
American Academy of Pediatrics: Sledding injuries -- a significant cause of hospitalizations, injuries during winter months