Dashing Through the Snow Then to the Emergency Room:
Sledding and Traumatic Brain Injuries
Madi Shultz, SOCKs Communications Fellow
As the winter season arrives, the topic that circulates around every elementary classroom is snow-related school cancelations. Particularly in the south, the irregular snow becomes a symbol of hope to young children impatiently waiting for the day when gloves, hats, snow boots, and sleds are actually needed in Tennessee. Graciously, the winter of 2014-2015 brought with it an abnormal amount of ice and snowstorms that encouraged young children and parents to venture into the icy abyss for the opportunity to sled. However, with this activity came something much less anticipated-a trip to the emergency room.
Blunt force head trauma is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in children, and after the snowstorms that struck Middle Tennessee in 2015, that realization became even more significant. A study conducted at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital currently published in abstract form found that between February 16th and February 21st, 2015, 62 children out of the 676 admitted in the time period had a sledding-related injury. Moreover, 16 of the patients required hospitalization and 5 required admissions into the pediatric intensive care unit. A total of 8 children in the study needed operative intervention for the sustained injury.
With statistics to legitimize the stigma surrounding sledding, many cities have released insurance fines and even bans on sledding including Montville, New Jersey, and Lincoln, Nebraska. City officials in Paxton, Illinois, even removed a community hill to prevent future injuries from occurring. However, since Middle Tennessee rarely experiences significant snow, legislation and public safety communication regarding injury prevention may not be as well established.
To prevent unplanned trips to the emergency department on snow days the following practices are recommended:
· Wear a helmet
· Use appropriate sled gear
· Sled on the right terrain
· Refrain from sledding headfirst
Every year in the United States 20,000 children are sent to the emergency department as a result of sledding-related injuries, and it may be time for Tennessee to better publicize the severity of sledding-related injuries. With better communication of this severity, a safer environment for winter activities can be achieved.