With the exciting Winter Olympics and record-setting snowfall in the east, many kids just want to get out and hit any slope with whatever they can ride to greater speeds and heights. But it is important for parents to consider safety before sending their children out for a fun day of sledding.
First, it is most important to never use a homemade sled. Garbage can lids and pool floats (including inner tubes) are not properly designed for safe sledding or other winter sports, and riders are more likely to lose control. In fact, it is a good idea to go snow tubing only at ski resorts that offer the activity. Be sure to heed the safety warnings posted at the designated tubing areas.
Sleds should be sturdy with handles that are easy to grip and should be equipped with easy steering and non-jamming devices. Finding hills that are specifically designated for sledding is best, and adult supervision is important for children under 12. Children under five should ride only when accompanied by an adult. Always wear a helmet, and never sled downhill head-first despite what you may have seen at the Olympics, with Skeleton athletes barreling downhill at breakneck speeds. Going head-first can lead to an increased risk of head trauma and permanent brain injury.
The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton, OH offers their Top Ten Sledding Tips. Some have been mentioned already. Others include:
Make sure the sledding path does not cross traffic and is free from hazards such as large trees, fences, rocks or telephone poles.
Do not sled on or around frozen lakes, streams or ponds because the ice may be unstable.
Never sled when it is icy. Ice makes the sled go too fast. Plus, you can’t steer or stop a sled when you’re on ice.
No matter the winter sport of choice, it is important to check all equipment (skis, sleds, skates, etc,) before use for broken parts, sharp edges or other flaws that might cause injury. Consumers can search the CPSC website for recalled items. The CPSC also offers some safety tips for many popular winter sports.
Finally, a video about safe sledding showing plenty of people not practicing what the video is preaching.