Thursday, February 21, 2013

Illuminating the Hidden Dangers of Sledding

Loyola University Health System Pediatric Orthopaedic Physician Offers Ways to Keep Kids Safe This Winter

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Children can get giddy with anticipation before a hearty snowfall and sledding. The adrenaline from speeding down an icy hill, feeling the snow spraying your face and the wind’s icy fingers nearly taking your breath away can be exhilarating. There is nothing like tearing down a perfect sledding hill to get rid of cabin fever. However, serious injuries can accompany the winter fun if precautions are not taken.

“There are some hidden dangers to sledding. It’s a great winter pastime, but there are risks involved. Parents need to be aware of these risks to help prevent injuries,” said Terri Cappello, MD, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Loyola University Medical Center.

Though injuries to the extremities were the most common in older kids, children 6 and under most often suffered head and neck injuries.

“Parents don’t often think about putting a helmet on a child when they go sledding, but if the child is under the age of 6 it’s important. Also, never let your child sled head first. Injuries have been associated with the leading body part. If you lead with your head, you’re more likely to get a head injury,” Cappello said.

Here are a few tips to keep kids safe this winter:

  • Adult supervision is critical. Forty-one percent of children injured while sledding are unsupervised. Go with your kids or make sure an adult is at the sledding location. This will ensure someone is there to assess the area and make sure it’s safe as well as to evaluate and respond should an injury occur.
  • Check out the location. Sledding should only be done in designated areas that are open, obstacle-free and groomed.   Most injuries occur when a sled collides with a stationary object. Make sure there are no trees, poles, rocks, fences or cars in the sledding area. Also be on the lookout for other sledders to avoid collisions.
  • Ensure the end of the run is safe. What is at the bottom of the hill? If there is a parking lot, pond or street, it is not a safe place to sled. Safe areas have run-outs that are far from water and automobiles.
  • Use layers of clothing and helmets to avoid injuries. If you have children under the age of 6, do not let them sled without a helmet. All children should wear several layers of clothing for protection from injuries and cold.
  • Always sled feet first. To reduce the risk of head injuries, do not let your child slide head first. Sledders should sit in a forward-facing position, steering with their feet.

“Sledding is a great winter activity and, if parents take precautions, they can decrease or prevent injuries so kids can have fun,” Cappello said.

For media inquiries, please contact Evie Polsley at or call (708) 216-5313 or (708) 417-5100.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.