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Sledding Safety for Kids

The snow is falling and your kid can't wait to go flying down a hill  on a sled. It is, after all, one of the great joys of winteralong with the hot cocoa that comes afterward. But a new study has found that too  many kids are traveling a slippery slope: More than 20,000 are treated  for sledding-related injuries each year, some of them serious. Remind your daredevil about these safety tips before he heads out:

Clear path

Make sure the hill—and the space at the bottom of itis completely clear of trees, fences, utility poles, and other obstacles. "The vast majority of injuries, we found, are caused by collisions," says Lara  McKenzie, Ph.D., principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, in Columbus, OH, who led the sledding study. In fact, she adds, fractures were twice as  likely to result from banging into something than from falling off the  sled.

Consider a helmet 

The head was the most common area  of the body to get hurtaccounting for 34 percent of all sledding injuries. A helmet is not a must, McKenzie says, but think about it: If your child wears one for snowboarding, biking, and skateboarding, why not sledding, too?

Only one person per sled, please 

Unless the one you're riding on was actually designed for two, stick to one passenger per sled. If you've got a mass of kids clinging to one sled, the odds of someone getting thrown off, bumped, or worse go way up.

Take turns!

"The more people you have jetting down the same hill at once, the greater the chance of colliding with one of themand that can be just as harmful as running into a tree," says McKenzie.

Get out of the way 

Make sure your child knows that once his run is done, he should quickly move to the side, out of the other sledders' way. Ideally, there will be one side of the hill for sledding down and another side for trudging  back up.

Don't rev up the experience 

"It was pretty surprising how many kids were out on sleds being pulled by a snowmobile or ATV," says McKenzie. "And that scenario accounted for a lot of cases in the emergency room." It may sound fun, she adds, "but it's not something you want to do."

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