Children are adventurous by nature. Fun and play is their work, and for many the idea of fun also equals thrill! For children, teens and some adults, a “thrill” comes from doing something fast and maybe even a bit dangerous. This is normal human nature and shouldn’t be forbidden, however, if it can be done safely why choose any other way? This is the message of a local Winter Safety program called Chill Out for Winter Safety that is taught by the Safe Kids North Shore and the Carly-Belknap-Budrow Fun-Day-tion at local elementary schools. This educational program started several years ago following the sledding death of a local 3rd grader. Though the program teaches about several areas of winter safety, such as frostbite, hypothermia, ice safety, and more, concussions and brain injuries are a large focus.
Our society has come to accept that if one is to engage in an activity that is fast and/or has a hint of danger involved then a helmet should be worn. When you look at a ski slope these days, it’s common to see more helmets than not. Think football, hockey, dirt-biking, biking, skateboarding, roller blading, skiing, and snowboarding. The champions in these sports—Shaun White, Peyton Manning—wear helmets. So, simple deduction would dictate that those who aren’t quite as expert (or anywhere close) should wear them too.
One exception to helmet wearing has been sledding. Most parents don’t put helmets on their children for sledding because they feel that their children sled on hills free of obstacles and that their child is sitting close to the ground. However, the majority of sledding accidents are head injuries, and many are incurred from a child’s head hitting another person’s head.
Some parents think “this helmet thing” has gone too far, but if it’s gambling your child’s life is there an alternative? In 2007 there were approximately 160,000 injuries treated while participating in sledding type activities, and one can assume there were many more that didn’t require extensive treatment. That’s a significant number considering this is not an activity that can be done year round, maybe four months tops. Think that a helmet is too much money? Consider that those 160,000 injuries had a total cost of over $4 billion when medical, legal, liability, pain and suffering and work-lost costs were added together.