1000 SW Jackson
Dennis Cooley, MD
Gear Up Properly for Safe Winter Sports
Safe Kids Kansas offers safety tips
More than a quarter million children are injured each year while participating in winter sports in the United States. Safe Kids Kansas offers a few simple precautions to make sure that your children are safe in their winter wonderland: kids need to be dressed appropriately, take lessons, be actively supervised and stick to safe terrain. For many winter activities, protective headgear is also recommended.
Roughly 3,000 kids a year suffer serious head injuries (brain injuries) from sledding. “Kids under 12 should wear a helmet while sledding,” says Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids Kansas coordinator, citing a position statement by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. “Never go down a hill headfirst — sit up and face forward. Make sure there’s adult supervision and a clear, safe path.” A good sledding hill does not lead to a street, a body of water or a crowded gathering place. In addition, parents and kids should inspect sleds regularly for worn, damaged or loose parts that could break or snag at high speed.
“Children under 6 should not be riding a snowmobile, period, and nobody under 16 should be driving one,” says Stegelman. “All snowmobile drivers and passengers should be wearing helmets designed for high-speed motor sports — a bike helmet isn’t sufficient for a four-wheeled motorcycle that can go up to 90 miles per hour.”
There is no consensus among experts about the need for helmets while ice-skating, but parents should keep in mind that beginners are likely to fall down a lot. Helmets are a must for ice hockey, along with mouth guards, kneepads and elbow, shoulder and shin protection. “Skate only on ice that’s approved for skating by local authorities,” says Stegelman . “Teach kids how to protect themselves if they do fall through the ice: stretch their arms out wide and kick as if swimming, shout for help and try to crawl backward onto solid ice.”
“Kids can look like a pro and will be safer if they wear helmets when they ski or snowboard,” says Stegelman. “Buy or rent a ski helmet that’s certified by the Snell Memorial Foundation or ASTM International, and have an expert make sure it fits correctly so it won’t come loose at a critical moment.” According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, ski helmets could prevent or reduce the effects of 53 percent of the head injuries suffered by children under 15 while skiing or snowboarding. “Caregivers should wear ski helmets too — remember, your children learn safety habits by watching you,” says Stegelman.
“Basic health and comfort precautions can go a long way in preventing injury,” says Stegelman. “Dress in layers. Wear sunscreen. Stay hydrated. Kids — or caregivers — who become distracted or irritable, or begin to hyperventilate, may be suffering from hypothermia or altitude sickness, or they may be too tired to participate safely in winter sports. They need to go indoors, rest and warm up.”
In 2004, more than 56,000 children ages 5 to 14 were taken to emergency rooms for injuries resulting from winter sports, including approximately 21,000 from snowboarding, 12,000 from sledding, 11,000 from skiing, 11,000 from ice skating and 1,500 from snowmobile accidents.
To learn more about child injury prevention, visit www.usa.safekids.org.
Safe Kids Kansas, Inc. is a nonprofit Coalition of 67 statewide organizations and businesses dedicated to preventing accidental injuries to Kansas children ages 0-14. Local coalitions and chapters are located in Allen, Anderson, Atchison, Clay, Coffey, Dickinson, Doniphan, Douglas, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Franklin, Geary, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth, Marion, McPherson, Meade, Mitchell, Montgomery, Nemaha, Osage, Pottawatomie, Republic, Rice, Riley, Saline, Smith, Shawnee, Wabaunsee, Wilson and Woodson Counties, as well as the cities of Chanute, Emporia, Leavenworth, Norton, Pittsburg, the Wichita Area and the Metro Kansas City Area. Safe Kids Kansas a member of Safe Kids Worldwide , a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury.