Winter Sports Hazards

Tips for Avoiding, Treating Injuries
February 18, 2008 11:48:20 AM PST
There's nothing more inviting to kids than a fresh snowfall and a chance to go sledding, snowboarding, snowmobiling, or skiing. But there's a downside to the fun-strains, sprains and bruises are common injuries for children participating in winter sports, not to mention broken bones and more serious traumas. Parents need to know how to help their children stay safe in the snow, and also how to treat minor injuries that don't require a doctor's attention.

"Winter sports tend to involve high-impact injuries, which can be severe," says Chicago-based pediatrician Chuck Dumont, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Medical Center. "It's important that parents make sure their children are taking proper safety precautions."

Dr. Dumont offers parents the following tips on how to prevent (and if necessary treat) injuries:

* Use the buddy system. "If you can't be there, make sure an adult is supervising younger children and require older children to have a companion," Dumont says. "With the buddy system, someone can keep an eye out for danger and run for help in case of injury."

* Wear your helmet. "Especially for children under the age of 12, fitted helmets can prevent injury and even save lives when children participate in winter sports," Dumont says. More than 8,000 head injuries occur from snowboarding each year, according to a study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

* Avoid obstacles. Teach your child not to sled head first down a hill and only use sleds that can be steered. Don't sled on hills ending near a street, pond, parking lot or other dangers. Don't snowmobile at night or on bodies of water, and only sled where well-lit.

* Dress wisely. "Dress in layers to avoid overheating or chills," says Dumont. "Choose outer fabrics that are wind and water resistant and tough enough to protect against cuts and scrapes. If snowmobiling, make sure that scarves are tucked in. And, make sure children always wear a hat, gloves or mittens, sun-block, and goggles if eye protection is needed."

* Use pain relief products that are safe for children. "For muscle aches, stiffness and bruising, I recommend a gel containing homeopathic Arnica montana, such as Arnicare Gel," Dumont says. "It's safe for the whole family and will also reduce swelling and lessen discoloration from bruising."

* Ice acute injuries. If there's pain and swelling from an acute injury, such as a blow from a fall or a twisted ankle, apply ice (in an ice pack or wrapped in a thin towel for comfort) for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. You can do this several times a day for up to three days.

* Apply heat to general injuries. For more general muscle aches and stiffness, apply heat to the area with a heating pad, a chemical heat pack, or a hot bath or shower. Gentle stretching of the area will also soothe the pain.

About Dr. Dumont: Dr. Dumont came to Loyola University Medical Center in 2000 and is currently an associate professor in the department of Pediatrics. He serves as director of the Pediatric Integrative Medicine Program, medical director of pediatric nutrition and medical director of Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis Center at Ronald McDonald Children's Hospital, Loyola University Medical Center. He is also medical director of the Easter Seals DuPage Feeding Clinic. Dr. Dumont graduated in 1988 from the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk Virginia and has served on the faculty at Columbus Children's Hospital and The Ohio State University. He has extensive training in complementary/alternative medicine, including training in mind/body medicine at the Harvard Mind/Body Institute.