PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With a fresh layer of snow on the ground, many kids across Rhode Island took a break from distance learning Monday and headed for the hills to go sledding.
While sledding is mostly fun and games, Dr. Vincent Varamo, and emergency medicine physician at Kent Hospital, warns it can also be dangerous.
“It’s a high-velocity event, if you will, or can turn into quite a high-velocity event,” Varamo said.
Varamo said winter activities such as sledding, snowboarding and skiing can all cause serious injuries if not done cautiously.
“Head injuries, neck injuries, long-bone injuries are all high on the list,” he said.
While a study conducted by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital revealed that, between 2008 and 2017, sledding-related injuries were on the decline, Varamo said the risk is still there.
Locally, data from Hasbro Children’s Hospital shows that, in 2020, there were 33 sledding-related injuries in kids ages 18 and under, which is a decrease from 2019’s 49. Hasbro also reports that so far, there have been 16 sledding-related injuries in 2021.
Varamo said while broken bones are serious, the cause for concern comes moreso with head and neck injuries.
“Closed-head injuries, concussions even, are very significant,” Varamo said.
The Nationwide Children’s Hospital study revealed that 82% of children who were involved in sledding-related incidents suffered a head injury.
So how can you protect yourself while sledding? Varamo said wearing proper winter gear can go a long way.
“Good footwear, outer wear, but then helmets,” Varamo said. “I would highly advise helmet use.”
The National Children’s Hospital study showed 63% of patients injured while sledding collided with something.
Varamo said it’s important to ensure there is a clear and defined pathway down the hill.
“Not having trees or vehicles or something at the end of a pathway, or people in the way, too,” he said.
Varamo said the potential for internal injuries from colliding with something are also cause for concern.
“Instead of hitting soft snow, you hit ice. You hit a tree,” Varamo said.