Cities in Quebec are working to keep kids playing outdoors safely after an increase in hospital visits due to tobogganing incidents.
Doctors at the Montreal Children’s hospital say they continue to see a record number of sledding injuries and are again calling on parents and municipalities to help keep kids safe.
“The numbers have doubled since the Children’s issued its first warning a mere week ago. Of these injuries, 50 per cent are due to collisions with obstacles such as trees, fences and benches,” a Montreal Children’s Hospital spokesman said in a statement.
Both the Montreal Children’s and the CHU Sainte-Justine hospitals reported seeing a record number of sledding injuries over the holidays and into early January. Doctors suggested that more children were sledding, because so many other activities were not allowed under COVID-19 rules. The hospitals saw well over 100 children combined in just a few weeks, more than they normally see in an entire winter season, they said.
They treated everything from head injuries to broken limbs, to facial lacerations.
In the last week, the Children’s treated another 50 cases. Doctors say it’s imperative parents and municipalities help out.
They’re urging children to wear helmets, to slide only on designated runs, to slide feet first, and to move out of the way when they get to the bottom.
They say most of the injuries are happening when children slam into obstacles, such as benches or trees, usually on runs they should not be on in the first place.
“The fact they are sledding into so many objects that should not be on a sledding hill is more of a concern to us, and that they are not wearing helmets,” said Liane Fransblow, the trauma coordinator at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
“It’s unprecedented for us,” said Fransblow. “All of these injuries we are seeing are preventable and our health-care system is already overburdened. We don’t need to see more of these cases.”
Experts are calling on municipalities for help.
“Maybe they can use some of their recreation staff to monitor their sledding hills, to make sure people are going one at a time, that they are paying attention to the other kids at the bottom,” said Fransblow.
In Westmount, the municipality reconfigured its popular tubing run on Murray Hill in King George Park, so that kids stop sledding on a flat bottom, instead of sliding into padded barriers. The toboggan run, constructed in December, has proven so popular, sometimes hundreds of families come out on weekends.
Westmount Mayor Christina Smith says the city is doing what it can to ensure tobogganing remains a safe activity.
“We want kids outside. We have done everything we can to make it as safe as possible,” Smith said, adding Westmont has closed off the west side of the hill to prevent people sliding. The city has also asked public security to monitor the hill on weekends. She says parents also need to do their part.
‘We need participation and help from the parents as well.”
Across the island, the city of Montreal worked over the last week to make hills safer. Executive committee member Jean-Francois Parenteau says the city is doing what it can, but also agrees parents must help out.
“If we can reduce the impact or accidents, we will do it for sure. Sometimes we put pads on the trees at different places. But we need the collaboration of the parents and the kids,” Parenteau said.