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Westport Pediatrician Urges Caution While Sledding

A few major blizzards and endless snow days can only mean one big, cold, fast, great thing. Sledding. To most children, it's a perfect combination, but to some parents and pediatricians, sledding can be a slippery slope of injuries.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission , more than 160,000 people were treated at hospitals nationwide as a result of sledding or tubing accidents in 2009. And the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that 71 percent of all unsupervised sledding outings end in injury.

A key word in that study is "unsupervised." According to Westport pediatrician, Dr. Nikki Gorman , sledding children under the age of six should be supervised closely. In general, she says, injuries run the gamut from mild to severe. Among those she's treated have been "bruised backs, ribs, concussions and sprained ankles." And sledding injuries are not limited to children. "We have heard of parents slipping, including one holding a baby who thankfully was okay."

Dr. Gorman recommends that sledding enthusiasts pay more attention to how they're sledding rather than what they're sledding on. Inflatable tubes, for example, might be difficult to steer and stop, but more importantly, she adds, is the position of the rider. "We've seen a lot of injuries with head-first sledding or standing on sleds."

She also cautions that sledding in areas with trees and other hazards – buried boulders and proximity to open roads among them – should also be avoided. Additionally, Dr. Gorman recommends parents pay attention to toddlers or preschoolers who might not be able to verbalize cold or pain. Here are more tips to make sure your kids are sledding safely.

* Before hitting slopes gentle or steep, remember to look forward. And never sled towards anyone or anything.

* Urge children to wear a multi-sport or ski helmet to avoid severe injuries. Stationary objects, trees, roots or standing people, pose the biggest risk for the worst sledding accidents – those resulting in head injuries.

* Only sled in a cleared area that's not too crowded.

* Avoid jumps. Sleds and sledders are seldom equipped to safely negotiate big jumps, and landing the wrong way from a jump can cause a host of orthopedic injuries such as clavicle fractures.

Click here for more safe sledding tips. And while you're out there watching them, you might want to hop on for a ride. Childhood is as close as a Flexible Flyer .

Do you sled with your kids? Where are some of the best locations in Fairfield County? My kids and I used to sled at the Barons property in Westport. What about yours?

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