Fresh snow means the return of winter activities, like skiing, snowmobiling, and sledding, but with these activities often comes injuries and an increase in trips to the emergency room.
In an effort to reduce winter sledding accidents, Intermountain American Fork Hospital trauma caregivers and the Lone Peak Fire Department joined together on Saturday, January 27, to raise awareness about sledding safely.
Experts from the organizations demonstrated safety measures, gave out 48 helmets, safety information, hot chocolate, bottled water, and sunscreen at Tibble Fork Reservoir, a popular sledding area in American Fork Canyon.
According to the latest Consumer Product Safety Commission report on winter safety, 12,470 people were treated in emergency departments nationwide last year for sledding-related injuries,
Common injuries include sprains, strains, dislocations, fractures, and head-related injuries. Experts say helmets are a key line of defense when it comes to preventing serious head injuries.
“Studies have found that increased helmet usage rate has led to a decline in the number of serious head injuries,” said John Wennergren, MD, trauma director for Intermountain American Fork Hospital. “However, a helmet doesn’t protect your head if it’s not worn and secured.”
Mckyliee Young, 20, knows first-hand the dangers of sledding.
On Dec. 16, 2022, Young found herself at Intermountain Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, after she hit her head while sledding with friends.
Young says the tube she was riding in flipped backwards and ended up crashing into two metal poles at the bottom of the hill, fracturing her spine and skull and breaking 21 ribs, her scapula, and collarbone.
She had brain surgery – and most recently hand surgery. She has had a long road to recovery and is grateful her injuries were not worse, but has a message for other sledders.
“Take sledding seriously. It’s not just a kid activity,” said Young.
Dr. Wennergren agrees.
“Sledding and skiing is just like driving a vehicle,” said Dr. Wennergren. “You want to be aware of the slopes and the surroundings, as well as others around you. We see a lot of sledder vs sledder accidents at American Fork Hospital.”
Intermountain Health trauma experts offer these other tips to keep in mind while having fun in the snow:
- Ride forward, and feet first or while sitting up, to help prevent head injuries.
- Separate young children from older children and one person per sled.
- Wear a ski or snow helmet.
- Ensure the slope is free of obstructions like trees or fences, is covered in snow (not ice), is not too steep and ends with a flat runoff.
- Keep sledders away from motor vehicles.
Since head injuries are some of the most serious types of injuries, it’s important to know the signs of a head and brain injury. Common brain injury symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Temporary loss of consciousness
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or someone in your group, get help immediately.
Also don’t refuse medical attention, even if you think you feel fine. After a brain injury, it’s important to be evaluated as soon as possible by medical personnel.