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Home / News and Events / Health Tips / Keep safe while sledding
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Keep safe while sledding
 

Reviewed By: Thomas Abramo, M.D. (Last Updated: February 9, 2010)
  

The Adult and Pediatric Emergency Departments at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt saw more than 90 sledding accident injuries after a severe winter storm struck Middle Tennessee. Residents took advantage of the nearly five-inch snowfall.

The most common injuries seen during that late-January weekend were broken bones, head injuries, and abdominal injuries. They occurred most often in 9- to 16-year-olds.

"Children in this area are not used to large snowfalls and sledding, and don't understand the potential for hitting objects at high velocity," said Thomas Abramo, M.D., professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics.

Eight-year-old Mason Estes had been down the hill at a family friend's property all day. He'd had a few scrapes and scratches. But on the last run of the day, he never made it down the hill to where his parents were waiting.

"His twin sister came down and said Mason hit a tree," said Mason's mother, Susan Estes. "My husband went up there and got him."

The family thought the scrapes on Mason's side were causing most of his pain and treated it at home with ice and Tylenol. But when Mason said he began having trouble breathing, they immediately took him to Horizon Medical Center in Dickson County.

"They did a CT scan and told us they would take him to Vanderbilt by LifeFlight," Susan said. "It's amazing that it went so quickly from what seemed like a minor injury to Mason possibly losing his kidney."

The damage to Mason's kidney was serious. He needed an extended stay at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

"That ice was so fast, but who would ever think that sledding could cause you to potentially lose a kidney?" Estes said.

The family said they would not sled on the icy hills anymore, and certainly would pick a spot in the future with fewer trees or obstacles to avoid.

Abramo's number-one tip for safe sledding is to sled feet-first rather than head-first. He said it is also important to be careful around roads and parked cars and to understand sledding equipment, especially knowing how to steer and brake.

"Children should be well-supervised by responsible adults, and adults should anticipate accidents and be prepared to respond," he said.

More caution is also needed as conditions become icier.

"The harder the surface, the faster the sled goes. On ice it is harder to stop and turn," Abramo said.

More tips for safe sledding:

  • Children should sled with adult supervision.
  • Make sure the sled's path does not cross traffic and is free from obstacles such as trees, fences, rocks, and telephone poles.
  • Don't intentionally run into others.
  • Teach children to roll off a sled before risking hitting a stationary object.
  • Never pull sled behind moving vehicle.

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