Injury Research and Policy Winter Sports Research :: Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio

Winter Sports Safety

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Winter can be a time of great fun. Many families enjoy the weather by skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and sledding. However, these activities can lead to injuries. Following a few safety tips can help you and your family have a fun and safe winter.

Common Sources of Winter Injury

  • Winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and sledding can be fun, but dangerous. Falls or crashes can cause cuts and bruises, broken bones, and brain injuries.
  • Sleds can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour.
  • Frozen bodies of water can have thin patches that can break when someone stands on them. This can lead to falling through the ice.

Getting Ready for Outdoor Fun

  • Dress warmly.  Wear a winter coat, hat and gloves, and slip-resistant snow boots.
  • If skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice skating or sledding, make sure to wear a helmet to prevent a brain injury.
  • There are special helmets made for skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiles. For ice skating or sledding, a multi-sport or bicycle helmet would be a good option if a ski helmet is not available.
  • Use knee and elbow pads when ice skating.
  • Goggles are important when skiing, snowboarding or snowmobiling.
  • Snowboarders should wear gloves with wrist guards.

Age Recommendations

  • Sledding: Children younger than 5 should only sled with an adult.
  • Snowboarding: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children younger than 7 not snowboard.
  • Snowmobiling: The AAP also says that children younger than 6 should not ride on snowmobiles. Children younger than 16 should never operate a snowmobile.

Winter Safety Tips

  • Always watch children during winter sports activities.
  • Avoid sledding in areas with trees, fences, ponds and light poles. Do not sled in or near the street.
  • Only one person should ride on a sled, unless an adult is riding with a young child.
  • Always sled sitting up and facing forward. Never sled head first.
  • Steerable sleds are safer than snow disks or inner tubes.
  • Never ride a sled being pulled by a car, ATV, snowmobile or other motorized vehicle.
  • Ice skate in designated skating areas. Never skate on river ice or ice that has thawed and refrozen.

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