Most people tend to think of sledding as a harmless and fun winter activity. While fun, sledding poses several risks and leads to numerous injuries every year. According to a study conducted at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, 220,488 patients were treated in the U.S. emergency departments for injuries related to sledding from 2008 through 2017. Nearly 70% of these patients were children 19 years and younger. Children were almost seven times more likely than adults to be treated in an emergency department for a sledding-related injury. 

Head injuries are a serious concern when sledding. The most frequently injured body part for both children and adults is the head. Of children treated for a sledding-related injury, 82% sustained an injury to the head. The best practice to reduce the risk of head injury is to wear a helmet while sledding. 

In recent years, the number of sledding-related injuries have decreased. However, over 10,000 patients were still treated in the most recent year of the study. This indicates that more education and safe practices need to take place. Below are some best practices that you can follow while heading out to sled.

Important Sledding Guidelines

  • Make sure all of your equipment is in good condition, free of sharp edges and cracks.
  • Wear a helmet. Make sure that it is properly fitted. (Snow sport helmets and bike helmets work best.)
  • Pick a proper sled. Choose sleds that can be steered and have breaking features for more control. 
  • Sled on spacious, gently sloping hills with a level run-off at the end so that the sled can safely stop.
  • Check slopes for bare spots, holes and obstructions, such as fences, rocks, poles or trees.
  • Do not sled on or around frozen lakes, streams or ponds.
  • Riders should sit or lay on their back on top of the sled with feet pointing downhill. Never sled head first.
  • Dress warmly and wear thick gloves or mittens and heavy boots to protect against frostbites and other injuries.
  • Have an adult present that can check the environment and ensure that kids are following safety guidelines to prevent injuries.



Information and data sourced from the National Safety Council and Nationwide Children’s.