Sometimes it seems like kids can’t have fun anymore – with helmets, elbow pads, and other safety gear required for everything from bicycles to roller skates to snowboards. Well according to MSNBC, you’ll soon be able to add another safety precaution: Helmets for kids on sleds. Researchers point out that sledding on snow carries some pretty serious risks. Whether they’re sliding on plain plastic saucers, or high-tech snow tubes, 23,000 kids under age 18 end up in emergency rooms in North America every year.

Laura McKenzie is the principal investigator for the Center on Injury Research and Policy in Ohio. She says that’s a huge number of injuries for an activity you can only do a couple days a year, and the numbers are probably a lot higher – because not every injury ends up in the emergency room. She points out that kids between 10 and 14 are injured most often, and the body part injured most frequently is the head. One in 10 kids hurt in a sledding accident sustains a traumatic brain injury, which includes concussions, comas, brain damage, and death. Like 12-year-old Ian Miller. He was killed last January when his plastic sled slid backwards into a metal ski tower, causing massive head trauma. His parents have been working ever since to get public snow parks and ski areas to require helmets for sledders. They’re now required in Washington, D.C. for sledders under 16, and Massachusetts is about to pass a similar bill. So, until helmets are required, how can you keep your child safe?

  • First, pick a sledding area that’s free of obstacles. Half of injuries come from collisions with fixed objects like trees, exposed rocks, benches, parked cars, and telephone poles.
  • Second: Avoid streets and highways. Kids hurt in street accidents are more likely to suffer head injuries or be hospitalized.
  • Finally: Use common sense. Nearly 6,000 kids were hurt last year while being pulled on a sled behind a vehicle – many driven by an adult - including cars, trucks, snowmobiles, ATVs, and lawnmowers.