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Snow-related injuries ring in the new year for local ER doctors

Sledding, skiing, and snow boarding all rhyme with falling.

MICHIGAN, USA — As snow fills the streets, Michiganders are eager to go out and play in it. But playing in the snow can come at a cost if people are not paying attention.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy released a new study stating that thousands of children are getting concussions nationally by sledding into environmental objects and each other.

Locally, doctors have also been seeing the physical impact that fun in the snow can create. 

"All kids are home from school right now, they've been on their holiday break and we got our first big dump of snow, and they are out there on their sleds. And so we are seeing multiple sledding injuries a day, and more than we're seeing from any on the ski hill," said Dr. Erica Michiels, pediatric ER physician.

Her patients are falling victim to sledding crashes. 

"The problem, especially with sledding, is that you lose control of the sled and slam into something," Michiels said. "So we're certainly asking parents to go out and look at the hill. If there are trees, telephone poles, stumps, parked cars, fences anywhere near the bottom of the hill, go find a different hill."

The study found that the main injuries came from collisions: around 47% of the participants collided with an object in the environment, 16% hit the ground and 10% ran into another person or sled.

Credit: LEONA DUNN

RELATED: Kent County Road Commission prepares for winter weather, offers safety tips

Mary Free Bed Occupational Therapist and hobby snow boarder Erika Chapman told 13 ON YOUR SIDE that she has been seeing more broken wrist injuries from skiers, but also recommends helmets.

"Luckily now way more people are wearing helmets, which is great. A lot of people don’t think about helmets when they are sledding or tubing, but I mean, you are going fast down the hill just like you are on skis or a snowboard," Chapman said. 

Here are some tips from researches who conducted the study: 

  • Wear a helmet: Make it a rule that everyone has to wear a helmet if they are going to sled. Properly fitted snow sport helmets or bicycle helmets are best.
  • Pick your sled: Sleds that can be steered and have braking features may allow for more control than flat sheets, snow discs, tubes and toboggans. Also make sure to follow manufacturer guidelines for the number of passengers a sled can safely hold.
  • Check the environment: A safe sledding environment should:
    • be free of obstacles (trees, rocks, light posts, walls, etc.).
    • have plenty of space at the end of the hill to allow the sled to safely slow down (avoid driveways or hills that end in a street, drop off, parking lot, or a body of water like a river or pond).
    • be free of motorized vehicles like ATVs, snowmobiles, cars, etc. Use of these types of vehicles to pull a sled can lead to serious injury and even death.
  • Follow the rules: Always ride the sled while seated with your feet facing the bottom of the hill. Only ride during daylight hours. Teach children to roll off the sled if it is going too fast or is going to crash so they can avoid collisions.
  • Stay for the fun: Have an adult present to check the environment for hazards and make sure kids are following safety guidelines while sledding to prevent injuries.

RELATED: December not a great month for snow sports

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