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Teach Winter Sports Safety
by The National Safe Kids Campaign
More than a quarter million children each year are injured while participating in winter sports. As families hit the slopes, the ice and the snowmobile trails, remember a few simple precautions to help keep kids safe in the snow: kids need to be dressed appropriately, be supervised at all times and stick to safe terrain. For many winter activities, protective headgear is also recommended.

In 2002, nearly 70,000 children under 14 were taken to emergency rooms for injuries resulting from winter sports, including nearly 23,000 from snowboarding, 18,000 from skiing, 14,000 from ice skating, 13,000 from sledding and 1,500 from snowmobile crashes. Another 300,000 children suffered less serious injuries from winter sports, according to figures released in 2002 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Skiing

Kids should wear a helmet when they ski, and have an expert make sure it fits co rrectly so it won't come loose at a critical moment. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, ski helmets could prevent or reduce the effects of 53 percent of the head injuries suffered by children under 15 while skiing or snowboarding. Although there are no federal standards for ski helmets, the Snell Memorial Foundation and ATSM International test and certify helmets to their own high standards.

Sledding

Roughly 3,000 kids a year suffer serious head injuries (brain injuries) from sledding. Kids under 12 should wear a helmet while sledding, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Don't let kids go down a hill headfirst — they should sit up and face forward. An adult should make sure the path is free of obstacles and snow-covered hazards and does not lead to a street, a body of water or a crowded gathering place. Inspect your child's sled regularly for worn, damaged or loose parts that could break or snag at high speed.

Snowmobiles

Snowmobiles can reach speeds of 90 miles per hour. No one under age 16 should drive a snowmobile, and no one under 6 should ride one. All snowmobile drivers and riders should wear helmets designed for high-speed motor sports — not bike helmets.

Ice Skating

There is no consensus among experts about the need for helmets while ice skating, but parents should keep in mind that beginners are likely to fall down a lot. Helmets are a must for ice hockey, along with mouth guards, knee pads and elbow, shoulder and shin protection. Check with local park authorities before skating on a pond or other body of water, and teach kids how to react if they fall through the ice: stretch their arms out wide and kick as if swimming, shout for help, and try to crawl backward onto solid ice.

And don't forget…

Basic health and comfort precautions can go a long way in preventing injury. Dress in layers. Wear sunscreen. Stay hydrated. Kids who become distracted or irritable, or begin to hyperventilate, may be suffering from hypothermia or altitude sickness, or they may be too tired to participate safely in winter sports. They need to go indoors, rest and warm up. And that goes for parents and caregivers, too.

Reprinted with permission of the National Safe Kids Campaign

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