With winter coming on, your kids may be looking forward to pulling sleds out of the garage and hitting the local hills. Before they do, be sure they're wearing a protective helmet to prevent significant head injuries.That's what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends and what a recent study also urges.
"You don't think of putting a helmet on with sledding," said Dr. Richard Herman, a critical care surgeon at the University of Michigan and lead author of "Raising the Awareness of Sledding Injuries. "Kids are taking more risks."
The investigation reviewed hospitalizations related to sledding injuries at the University of Michigan Health System between 2003 and 2011. During that time period, 52 children were hospitalized for those injuries, with the most common cause a sled hitting a tree. Of these children, 37 percent suffered head injuries, 70 percent were admitted to the intensive care unit, and nearly 10 percent ended up with permanent disabilities, including cognitive impairments.
"Our recommendation is that kids wear helmets to prevent head injuries, have safer sled courses and be properly supervised," said Dr. Herman.
Don Mays, product safety director at Consumer Reports, said that "Ski helmets are best because they are designed for cold weather use and have an outer shell that can take more bumps and scrapes than bike helmets."
Still, both Dr. Herman and Mays believe that what matters is having head protection.
"Any type of helmet—bike, skateboard, etc.—is better than no helmet," said Mays.