Sledding, snowball fights, and snowmen: this is the quintessential trinity of winter recreation that every child should experience. But of the three, one undoubtedly comes with more potential for serious injury. Though nothing can beat that feeling of exhilaration as you zoom down a snow-covered hill, sledding can be a risky business.

In a study conducted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and published in the September 2010 issue of Pediatrics (vol. 126: pp 517-524), more than 20,000 children (age 19 and under) were treated in emergency rooms each year, during the ten year span researchers examined.

Sledding injuries sustained from colliding with objects such as trees, sign posts, fences, concealed rocks, cars and, of course, other sledders, range from bruises, cuts, sprains, fractures, broken bones, head injuries (including traumatic brain injury), spinal cord injuries, and even death as in the case of the Le Sueur teen, Katelyn Hank, who died last winter.

So what can you do to ensure your kid can partake in the fun, but avoid a visit to the ER?


Children should always be supervised by an adult while sledding, preferably by someone with first – aid skills.
Daytime is preferable for optimum visibility. If you do sled at night, make sure the area is very well lit.
Children age five and under should ride with an adult.
Provide “how to” instruction for kids six and older before they begin sledding.
Talk to your kids about the risk of injury and encourage them to make safe choices.
Use a real sled, not an improvised one like a trash can lid or cardboard box. Avoid tubes, saucers, or toboggans, or anything that can rotate.
Pay a little extra to get a sled with steering and break controls.
Inspect the terrain beforehand. The slope should be smooth, clear of debris, and not too steep. Even a small bump in the ground can send a sled flying off course. Choose a hill that is snowy, not icy (it’s easier on the body during falls and keeps sleds from picking up too much speed).
Choose a place that is open and away from trees, fences, ponds and other large obstructions. Do not sled on roads or in parking lots (injuries sustained on cement are more serious) and make sure there is enough run off distance at the bottom of the hill to allow the sled to stop unimpeded.
Insist on a one-person-per-sled rule (except for young children with a parent).
Sledders should be facing forward, seated, with legs in front (no standing or sledding face first).
Take turns to avoid collision with other sledders.
Do not allow the pulling of a sled by a motorized vehicle of any kind.
Do not allow jumps.
Instruct kids to move out of the way as soon as possible when they’ve come to a stop or if they’ve fallen off the sled mid – hill.
Have kids walk back up the hill on either end, not in the middle.
Dress appropriately (this adds an extra layer for padding falls while protecting against frostbite).
Wear a helmet.

If your child has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, it is very important to see a doctor immediately to document their injuries in a medical record. Then, contact Meshbesher & Spence for a consultation with our personal injury attorneys who are available to visit you in the hospital or in your home, as well as in our offices, and will help you determine if you will be able to recover damages for your child’s injuries.