Monteal doctors are sounding the alarm about the dangers of tobogganing, saying they are seeing a record number of sledding-related injuries.
“We have been seeing serious head injuries, cuts to the face, tooth injuries, bone injuries,” said Dr. Laurie Plotnick, the medical director of the emergency department at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. “We are quite concerned people aren’t taking the right precautions.”
The Montreal’s Children’s Hospital has seen a record 70 injuries related to sledding over the past three weeks, more than they normally see in an entire season.
“Families and teens and children are wanting to get outside and be physically active,” Plotnick said. “There are limited activities they can do. Sledding, tobogganing are some of those activities.”
Ste. Justine Children’s hospital is also seeing an alarmingly high number of sledding-related injuries. Since Dec. 31, the hospital has treated 45 children — more than double what they normally treat in one month.
“Most of the injuries are happening from them hitting objects, running into a post, into a bench, into a tree. That is a majority of what we are seeing,” said Dr. Michael Arsenault, an emergency room physician at Ste. Justine. “There is a lack of snow and the snow conditions are icy, which makes sledding and sliding much more dangerous.”
While supporting COVID-19 lockdown rules and the need for them, Arsenault believes more children are sledding because there isn’t a lot else to do.
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“The confinement is causing the problem because parents are looking for activities for children to do and toboggining is one of the only thing they can do,” Arseneault said.
Montreal Children’s doctors say families and children must follow basic guidelines to ensure safe sledding.
- Ensuring there are no obstacles on the hill, including park benches, trees, and bales of hay (which easily freeze)
- Use only hill designated for sledding
- Avoid hills that are icy
- Slide on hills that have a flat bottom so the toboggan can stop
- Never slide into the street
- Don’t pile many children on a toboggan
- Always sit facing forward, never feet first
- Avoid tobogganing in dusk or dark conditions
- Wear a helmet
“We are seeing a lot of head injuries so this is a way to protect our pediatric population,” Plotnick said.
Fourteen-year-old Conrad Porteous plans on wearing a helmet when he goes sledding from now on.
He suffered a broken tibia and a broken femur while tobogganing on Mont Tremblant last year.
“It was a big shock because I had never broken a bone before and it was a pain I had never felt before,” Porteous said.
The accident happened last March, during the first stretch of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mont Tremblant had shut down because of the health crisis, and Porteous found himself with not a lot to do. He decided to go sliding down a ski run with his friend. It had rained the day before and conditions were icy.
Porteous lost control and slammed into a tree, breaking two bones.
He spent a week at Montreal Children’s hospital undergoing two surgeries. It took him seven months of physio and help to fully recover. But he knows he is lucky.
“I think if I hit my head it would have been a bad ending,” Porteous said.