Sports Law • Risk Management

January 1, 2011: Sledding Risk Management 101

As a kid, I opted to go sledding when my parents took us to the ski slopes. It’s easier than skiing, doesn’t require much in the way of specialized equipment and can be done anywhere that there is a slope and snow. When I was a kid, I never saw anyone wear a helmet for any sport (except football) as those were the days when parents sent their kids out the door in the morning to play and they didn’t come in the house until the sun set. With time and constant reports by the media about the dangers of virtually everything, kids are more strictly supervised, and everyone should be wearing helmets.

It would probably be reasonable if we strapped a helmet on our heads when we woke up in the morning to protect us from all sorts of mayhem. For example, I was hit by a heavy musical instrument that fell out of an overhead bin on an airplane recently. The point that I’d like to make here is that helmets should be required for sledding. When little Brittany and Joshua go sledding, make sure that they are wearing their sledding helmets with the chin straps safely and securely buckled. This will eliminate the possibility that they will become one of the more than 230,000 people injured in sledding accidents in the last 15 years.
There are other important sledding safety considerations as well.

The first consideration is what type of sled is being used. Is it in good repair? Plastic sheets and other makeshift sleds could be dangerous. The second concern is the conditions and location of the sledding hill. Is it too steep? Does it intersect with traffic? Are their trees, rocks, thin ice or other hazards? Does it intersect with skiers or snowboarders? Does it allow for easy stopping at the end of the hill? The third safety issue that should be addressed is the clothing and gear that is being worn. Warm clothing, gloves and footwear are essential to protect from frostbite, but also from possible falls. If proper precautions are consistently made with sledding, the number of injuries can be significantly reduced.