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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 winter--along 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:

Make sure the hill--and the space at the bottom of it--is 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 hurt--accounting 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. 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 them--and 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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