Sledding Accidents Land Thousands of Kids in ER

Study: More Than 20,000 Children Annually Treated in Hospital ER for Sledding Injuries

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on August 23, 2010

Aug. 23, 2010 -- Sledding is popular for only a portion of the year, yet it lands about 20,000 children in the emergency room each year, new research shows.

Researchers analyzed data for 1997-2007 from the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. They found an estimated 229,023 injuries serious enough for ER treatment in that time period among children under 19.

Main Findings

The study, now online, will appear in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics. It says:

  • 26% of the injuries were fractures.
  • 25% were cuts and bruises.
  • 51% of the injuries occurred during a collision.
  • Collision injuries were most likely to result in traumatic brain injury.
  • 34% of the injuries involved the head.
  • 52% of the injuries occurred at a place of sports or recreation.
  • 31% of injuries occurred on private property.
  • 42.5% of injuries involved children aged 10 to 14.
  • 59.8% of all injuries were sustained by boys.
  • 4.1% of all emergency department visits required hospitalization.

Streets and Highways

Researchers say young people were more likely to sustain head injuries and to be diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and hospitalized if accidents occurred on a street or highway.

“Two of the main factors that contribute to sledding-related injuries are the environment and the locale,” study co-author Lara McKenzie, PhD, of the Ohio State University College of Medicine, says in a news release.

McKenzie, who is affiliated with the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, says sledding areas should be clear of trees and other obstacles.

Also, they “should have sufficient run-out areas away from streets,” she says. “In addition, sledding on streets and highways should be avoided to prevent collisions with motor vehicles and other traffic.”

Sledding Bigger Problem Than Thought

McKenzie says the study indicates the prevalence of sledding injuries is much greater than previously thought.

“Given the potential for serious injury, children should never ride a sled that is being pulled by a motorized vehicle of any type, including all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, dirt bikes, and lawn mowers.”

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau were used to calculate injury estimates.

Researchers say research is needed to determine whether helmets would reduce injury rates. They also examined the types of sledding vehicles involved in injuries, from sleds and snow tubes to toboggans and snow disks.

Among other findings:

  • Children aged 9 and older were more likely to be injured through collisions.
  • Children aged 4 and younger were more likely to be involved in accidents with vehicles.
  • One third of injuries were caused by young people being pulled by motorized vehicles.
  • The use of sleds that can rotate, such as disks and snow tubes, should be discouraged.
  • Younger children should be supervised by parents when sledding.

Show Sources


News release, Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Howell, C. Pediatrics, September 2010; vol 126: pp 517-524.

© 2010 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info