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Winter Sports Safety

With snow comes outdoor activities like sled riding, skiing, snowboarding and ice skating. Thousands of children suffer injuries during these activities that may be prevented.

Helmets are essential for many outdoor winter activities. The risk of head injury is too great to leave the helmet in a closet at home. Helmets prevent or reduce the effects of 53 percent of the head injuries suffered by children while skiing or snowboarding.

Children should bundle up and enjoy the outdoors. Before heading out, it is important to remember a few key items in addition to the hat and gloves.

Safety Tip

Top Winter Safety Tips

  • Always wear sport-specific, properly fitting safety gear when participating in winter sports.
  • Kids should always wear helmets when they ski, sled, snowboard and play ice hockey. There are different helmets for different activities.
  • Parents should wear helmets too. Remember, your children learn safety habits by watching you.
  • Dress in layers and wear warm, close-fitting clothes. Make sure that long scarves are tucked in so they don’t get entangled in lifts, ski poles or other equipment.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink fluids before, during and after winter play.
  • Kids — or caregivers — 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 to warm up and rest.
  • Children under 6 should not ride a snowmobile, and nobody under 16 should drive one. All snowmobile drivers and passengers should wear helmets designed for high-speed motor sports. A bike helmet isn’t sufficient for a four-wheeled motorcycle that can go up to 90 miles per hour.

Avoid Decorating Dangers

In addition to food, family, and gifts, decorations are one of the highlights of the holiday season. While candles, Christmas trees, and other decorations are part of the holiday spirit, they can pose fire and poisoning hazards, especially to curious children.

The holidays are a time for spending with family and friends, not for rushing to the emergency room. Once all of your decorations are up, keep a close eye on both children and the decorations themselves.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.

Follow some simple safety tips to protect your family and your home.

Safety Tip

Top Safety Tips

If you decorate a tree, avoid these top decorating mistakes:

  • Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them.
  • Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.
  • Natural trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.
  • Never leave a lit tree or other decorative lighting display unattended.
  • Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets.
  • Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.
  • Do not burn tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.   

Top tips to prevent poisoning this holiday season:

  • Keep alcohol, including baking extracts, out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
  • Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach.
  • Artificial snow can be harmful if inhaled, so use it in a well-vented space.
  • Mistletoe berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach it.
  • In a poison emergency, call the national Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

Don’t Toy With Safety

Naturally, you want your children to have a safe play environment with safe toys.  Did you know that in 2009, there were an estimated 181,900 toy-related injuries?  And that children under 5 accounted for nearly half of these injuries? 

Do your children like small play balls and balloons? These kinds of toys account for many choking deaths.  Do your children like riding toys – unpowered scooters or tricycles?  They are associated with more injuries than any other toy group; in fact half of the toy-related injuries treated in emergency rooms were caused by unpowered riding toys.  In addition to other hazards, any electrical toy is a potential burn hazard. 

Make sure your children play safely by following some simple safety tips.

Top Toy Safety Tips

  • Be sure your children play with toys that are age-appropriate.  Read the warning labels before buying toys for your children.
  • Look for well-made toys
  • Check toys regularly for damage that could create hazards.  Repair or discard damaged toys immediately.
  • Make sure that discarded toys are out of children’s reach.
  • Watch your children while they play.  Be aware of potential dangers like small parts, cords and strings, moving parts, electrical or battery-powered cords or wheels
  • Do not allow riding toys near stairs, traffic or swimming pools
  • Teach children to put toys away after playing.  Toys intended for younger children should be stored separately from those suitable for older children
  • Make sure toy chests are open (no lid) or have safety hinges.

Get Ahead in the Game – Prevent Concussions: Former Philadelphia Flyer Primeau Shares Concussion Experience

Safe Kids Atlantic/Cape May together with Atlanticare Health Services hosted a sports injury prevention clinic, Get Ahead in the Game – Prevent Concussions, for coaches, athletic trainers, parents and children recently to focus on injury risks associated with ice hockey and lacrosse. 

Former Philadelphia Flyer Keith Primeau discussed a player’s perspective of safety and importance of using correctly fitted, appropriate helmets to prevent concussions in sports.  Primeau retired in 2006 after suffering the most severe concussion in a series of head injuries, ending his 14 year NHL career.

Coaches, athletic trainers, nurses and parents listen intently as Keith Primeau speaks about his experience with multiple concussions, which eventually ended his career with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Given that more than 30 million children nationally participate in sports each year, and over 3.5 million receive medical treatment due to sports injuries, Safe Kids New Jersey believes that youth sports safety is a challenge worth facing.  Watch for more to come from Safe Kids in the upcoming months on sports injury prevention.

At the event, David Cane from Cascade (a manufacturer of sports helmets) demonstrated proper helmet fit for lacrosse and ice hockey:

Make Helmet Use a No-Brainer this Winter

The cold weather does little to keep winter sports enthusiasts inside – especially children. In fact, children ages 14 and under are at a high risk for winter sports injuries. In 2007, there were 17,000 estimated injuries among children from skiing and snowboarding; 24,500 estimated injuries from sledding; and 1,500 estimated injuries from snowmobiles and other equipment. Safe Kids New Jersey has some winter safety tips to keep your kids injury-free.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, ski helmets could prevent or reduce the effects of 50 percent of head injuries suffered by children under 15 while skiing or snowboarding. Kids should always wear helmets when they ski, sled, snowboard, or play ice hockey but parents should know that there are different helmets for different activities. Make sure your child’s helmet meets federal safety standards, and have an expert check that the helmet fits correctly so it won’t come loose at a critical moment.

Along with wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding, parents should know these ten useful tips to keep their children safe when doing outdoor activities this winter:

Sledding

  • Kids can suffer serious head injuries from sledding, and should always wear a helmet. When sledding, do not go down a hill head-first. Sit up, face forward, use a clear, safe path and make sure an adult is supervising.
  • A good sledding hill does not lead to a street, a body of water or a crowded gathering place. In addition, remember to inspect sleds regularly for worn, damaged or loose parts that could break or snag at high speed.

Snowmobiles

  • Children under 6 should not be riding a snowmobile and no one under 16 should drive one. All snowmobile drivers and passengers should be wearing helmets designed for high-speed motor sports – a bike helmet isn’t sufficient for a four-wheeled motorcycle that can go up to 90 miles per hour.

Ice Skating and Hockey

  • There is no consensus among experts about the need for helmets while ice skating, but parents should consider them for kids who are just beginning to learn to skate.
  • Helmets are a must for ice hockey, along with mouth guards, knee pads and elbow, shoulder and shin protection.
  • Teach kids how to protect themselves if they do fall through ice. Remind them to stretch their arms out wide and kick as if swimming, shout for help, and try to crawl backward onto solid ice.

General

  • Always wear sport-specific, properly fitting safety gear when participating in winter sports activities. Since proper equipment fit and maintenance are important for safety, bring your child along when shopping for skates, helmets, boots, etc.
  • Dress in layers and wear warm, close-fitting clothes. Make sure that long scarves are tucked in so they don’t get entangled in lifts, ski poles or other equipment.
  • Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
  • If children become distracted, irritable, or begins to hyperventilate, they may be suffering from hypothermia or altitude sickness, or are too tired to participate safely in winter sports. They should go indoors, rest and warm up.

Remember, your children learn safety habits by watching you, so parents should always wear the right helmet for their winter activities too.