Sled Safely to Keep Up the Winter Fun

Recreational sledding may be one of the few remaining activities available to children that is all about fun and isn’t tainted by the shadow of over training and super-competitiveness. Although sledding can be fun, there are risks associated with sliding sports that must be minimized in order to prevent injury. Each year, there are between 20,000 and 90,000 sledding injuries in the United States requiring emergency department care. Some of these injuries are fatal or result in life-long disability. More than 60 sledding related deaths have been reported since 1990.

The main risks in sledding occur when the sled or sledder hits a fixed object such as a tree or rock or a collision occurs between a sled and a person. Injuries include sprains, strains, cuts, and fractures. Sleds can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. The most dangerous injuries are to the head and neck. Collisions with motor vehicles are particularly dangerous.

Guidelines to Prevent Injury

• The area for sledding should be free of obstructions such as trees, rocks, and posts. The potential path of the sled should not cross streets, water, or any drop-offs. Ideally, the area chosen will be specifically designated for sledding. Never allow a sled to be pulled by a motor vehicle.

• Helmets should be worn by all children, especially those younger than 12.

• All children should have adult supervision.

• Make sure that children or adults supervising children control sledding “traffic” to make sure that active sledders don’t run into sledders who are finished or who are walking back up the hill.

• Sit on a sled facing forward. Headfirst sledding is more dangerous.

• Sledding should be done in well-lit areas, if done in the evening.

• Physical and mental fatigue may be factors that contribute to injury risk.

• Sleds with steering mechanisms are safer than unsteerable products such as toboggans or discs.

• Plastic sheets or other objects that can be penetrated by rocks or vegetation should not be used.

• Be aware of conditions.

• Hydrate regularly with water and/or warm fluids.


Sledding can be a truly fun activity and perhaps one of the few pure sources of entertainment that is still available to kids. As long as the above guidelines are followed, sledding can also be a safe activity.

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