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Winter Sports Safety
1/15/2011 11:13:35 AM

Winter Sports Safety
by Carol Silverman Saunders

Heading for the ice, snow, or slopes? Bundle up with this safety advice and have a great time!

Before you sled, ski, or skate
Dress for safety. Dress everyone in several layers of tops and pants under warm jackets and add hats, gloves or mittens, and waterproof boots. Check for hanging drawstrings that can catch on sleds, ski lifts, and other equipment. (It's the little toggles at the end that hook onto things.) Stuck drawstrings can cause serious injury, so remove them from hoods and necks and shorten those that hang from jacket bottoms. Use short, not long scarves and tuck them into jackets.

Respect the cold:
"When the temperature is below freezing, beware of frostbite and hypothermia," says Dr. Greensher, medical director of Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. and former chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Injury Prevention Committee. Check on kids often to make sure they don't get too cold. Beware that cold air increases the risk of exercise-induced asthma.

Give babies special care: Keep infants inside, if possible, when it is under 40 degrees. Make sure babies' faces remain dry and protected, as cold injury can result from wind whipping their saliva and drool. If clothing is wet, either from snow or diapers, it no longer acts as an insulator.
Provide lessons: Before starting any sport, provide lessons from a qualified instructor. Consider taking a first-aid course yourself. Make sure children are always properly supervised.

Ice skating
Children three and up can skate. Although ponds are scenic, rinks offer safer conditions for everyone. Another good option is to ask your community to flood a grassy area. Rent or buy good fitting skates and lace them tightly. Teach kids to fall on their behinds, not on their hands. Always carry skates to and from the rink -- never wear them.
Some guidelines for skating on ponds: Ice is thinner and less stable at the start and end of winter, so mid-winter is the best time to try pond skating. If possible, skate over shallow water, no deeper than two to three feet. This way, if the ice breaks, you'll only get wet. Since ice is thinner at the center of a pond, skate around the edges. Never skate over water that is moving, like rivers or streams.

Guidelines for safe sledding include using a sturdy sled with good steering and no sharp edges. Have children sled in supervised areas reserved for sledding only. Help your community organize a good sledding area if you don't already have one. Choose a spot with no holes, rocks, stumps, trees, ice, cars, or streets. Avoid very steep hills. Try to get your children to wear their bike helmets for protection. Tell them to sit up, not lay down.

The entire family can enjoy skiing together. Children three and up can ski, as long as you provide skiing lessons, constantly supervise children, and supply properly fitting equipment. Children should be closely supervised on lifts. Keep children away from hills that are icy or too steep.

This popular winter sport is like skiing, but you don't use poles. Instead of skis, you use a single hard board like a skateboard and stand sideways, like surfing. Parents should check everyone's bindings to make sure they will release easily during falls. As with skiing, boots that stay attached to skis during a fall are what cause most ankle injuries. Look for a resort that has separate areas for snowboarding.

"Ice hockey is extremely safe for children under the age of ten. Older children do sustain injuries, but the incidence is less than other contact sports like football," says Dr. Alan Ashare, staff physician at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston and a director of USA Hockey. He recommends protective equipment such as a helmet and a full facemask; shin guards; protective padding for the pants, shoulders, and elbows; as well as gloves and a mouthguard. Players should cushion collisions with body parts other than the head. If a collision is unavoidable, then "Heads Up, Don't Duck" helps prevent neck injuries.

Older children: can stay safe by wearing the protective equipment mentioned and by following the heads-up rule. Parents should make sure the coach has had formal training in this sport. Older children should also cushion collisions with body parts other than the head.


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