20,000 kids a year injured while sledding, study finds

Although winter may still seem like a long time away to a nation still sweltering from record-breaking heat waves, a report issued today underscored the hazards of sledding.

A new study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital found that approximately 229,023 children and adolescents under 19 were treated in U.S. emergency departments for sledding-related injuries from 1997-2007 – an average of more than 20,000 accidents each year.

According to the study, which is slated for publication in the September issue of Pediatrics, the most common injuries were fractures (26 percent), followed by cuts and bruises (25 percent). The study also revealed that the majority of injuries occurred during a collision (51 percent), and that collisions were more likely to result in a traumatic brain injury (TBI) than other types of injury.
Overall, the head was the most commonly injured body part (34 percent). While the majority of injuries occurred at sports or recreation areas (52 percent) or on private property (31 percent), patients that were injured while sledding on a street or highway were more likely to sustain injuries to the head, be diagnosed with a TBI and hospitalized than patients injured in other locations.

"Two of the main factors that contribute to sledding-related injuries are the environment and locale," said study co-author Lara McKenzie, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "To reduce the risk of injury, sledding areas should be clear of trees and other obstacles and should have sufficient run-out areas away from streets. In addition, sledding on streets and highways should be avoided to prevent collisions with motor vehicles and other traffic."

The use of motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles to tow sledders was singled out as an area of particular concern -- since more than one-third of the injuries sustained while being pulled by a vehicle were fractures.

"Our findings indicate that the prevalence of this activity may be much greater and the practice more common than previously thought," said McKenzie, also a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "Given the potential for serious injury, children should never ride a sled that is being pulled by a motorized vehicle of any type including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), snowmobiles, cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, dirt bikes and lawn mowers."

Data for this study were collected from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The NEISS dataset provides information on consumer product-related and sports and recreation-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments across the country.

In conjunction with the study, the center also published a sledding safety fact sheet full of tips to help keep your kids safe.

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