Monday, January 12, 2009

Sledding Accident Raises Personal Safety Questions

sledders on car hood
sledders using a car hood - not the ones involved in the accident (photo by Universal Stopping Point)
commentary by Joan H. Young

Five people were injured on Sunday sledding downhill using a car hood. A favorite childhood activity, sledding has inherent risks. And as children grow they often like to increase the risk, just for the thrill.

Yet, the Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that there were 74,000 sledding, snow tubing and tobogganing-related injuries in 2004. These are just the ones serious enough to be treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices and clinics. Head injuries are common and serious. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates the yearly cost of these injuries at $1.89 million.

The Sunday incident occurred at Frederick, near Gaylord (Michigan), at the former Mount Frederick ski resort. The hill is now used by many sledders. The five people riding the car hood down the slope were thrown from the hood at the bottom of the hill. The one adult was injured seriously and was airlifted to Saginaw with back injuries. The four teenagers were treated at Grayling Mercy Hospital and released.

Television programs such as America's Funniest Videos glorify tremendously dangerous stunts. The program claims that it will not air footage where people are actually injured, but it seems like sheer luck in many cases that a serious injury did not occur. This encourages people to try highly risky behaviors.

When I was a kid the village sledding hill ended at a creek, which we diligently tried to jump with our sleds. I can't tell you how many times I thwacked my sled and my body into the far bank of that creek and ended sprawled on the ice. Ditto a couple dozen other youngsters. It all seemed worth it for the few times that I actually made it to the other side. But this is a seriously dangerous configuration for a sledding slope. The incident at Frederick yesterday was partly due to the sled hitting a ditch at the bottom of the hill.

Doctors would love to see some basic safety rules followed.
  • Number one, #1, top of the list: wear a helmet. You only have one head
  • Sled only on hills free of obstructions
  • Supervise children
  • Use sleds which can be steered
  • Never sled face first
  • Do not use thin materials such as plastic or cardboard as sleds, as they can be pierced
  • Do not sled at night

Of course, we all look at that list and who among us hasn't broken several, if not all of those "rules." For anyone who enjoys outdoor thrills the risks must always be weighed against the rewards. Five people this weekend are probably wishing they had taken more precautions.

Based on Five hurt in Crawford County Sledding Accident
University of Michigan Health Systems
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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