Snow Sledding Safety

Accidental?  Preventable!

Remember sledding down a hill as a child? The excitement, the frigid wind on your face and your parents terrified you’d crash? Unfortunately your parents may have been onto something.  All that fun is the cause of more than 20,000 sledding injuries a year – most due to collisions with a tree, fence, utility pole or vehicle.  

Dr. Ray Georgen, director of Trauma at Theda Clark Medical Center, says he’s already begun to see an increase in sledding injuries this year. Some of the most severe injuries are caused when a sledder is towed by an ATV, snowmobile or car and swung into an object or vehicle.  Those devastating crashes are due to the “slingshot effect” that happens when a sled swings out of control during a sharp turn by the vehicle.  

Whether you are a parent or just a big kid at heart, please make your outings fun and safe. Here are some tips to help prevent a traumatic injury or trip to the Emergency Department.

  • Choose a sledding area free of obstacles. Also avoid sledding on driveways, hills, or slopes that end in a street, drop off, parking lot, river or pond.
  • Helmets – wear them! If not a ski/snowboard helmet, wear at least a bike helmet. The head is the most likely injured body part.
  • Always sled sitting with feet first. Learn how to steer and stop with your feet or use a rope tied to the handles of the sled. 
  • If you lose control and have no way to stop – bailing out is usually a better option than running into an object. Practice looking around for other sledders/trees then roll off the side of the sled onto the ground.
  • Because they are hard to steer, the best place to use a saucer or tube is in a tubing park – often found at ski resorts.
  • Never ride a sled being pulled by a car, ATV, snowmobile or other motorized vehicle. While the vehicle may have excellent steering control,  the sled behind it likely won’t. You are more likely to be swung into something and end up in the hospital. More than one-third of sledding injuries are fractures – a result of being pulled behind a motorized vehicle.

Remember you have the ability to prevent accidents!  Wishing you a safe sledding season from the staff at the Trauma Center at Theda Clark Hospital.