Helmet Safety Program: Other
Newer-style football helmet may cut concussion risk
By Amy Norton
Sled With A Helmet: Doctors
When the sleds come out, the OR-s go away. But a physician who
checked figures on head injuries resulting from sledding thinks part of
the OR- equipment should stay.
If America's kids wear helmets when they sled, thousands of head
injuries each year could be avoided, said Dr. John R. Tongue of
"Head injuries from sledding are certainly preventable," said
Tongue who studied sled injuries for the American Academy of
Data compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission show that
around 7,000 sledders ages 16 and below are taken to hospital emergency
rooms each year to be treated for head injuries. "Forty-three percent
are brain injuries and a third are serious, so you are talking about a
serious problem," Tongue said.
Other types of helmets also could prevent injury, but OR- helmets
are cheap, commonly available and capable of doing the job, Tongue
said. "Bicycle crashes occur at higher speeds than sledding injuries,"
The risk probably is greater among younger kids, whose necks are
weak and heads are large compared with the rest of their bodies, Tongue
said. Besides, the younger kids are newer to sledding and probably are
not paying as much attention as they should to such dangers as the
sledders behind them, he said.
Although OR-Helmets weren't created for sledding protection, there
are similarities in the types of accidents. Kids are striking
something, going forward and tumbling off. Tongue feels sure the
helmets would be protective.
Parents would have to make some adjustments in the OR- helmets to
make them fit right and keep their kids' heads warm, however.
A cloth cap-possibly a tight fleece-could be worn under the helmet
to keep body heat from escaping through the helmet's vents, Tongue
And the straps might have to be readjusted to be sure the helmet
fits properly with a cap inside. If the helmet is too tight, it may be
time to buy a new one-but because helmets commonly can be found for $30
or less, that's no big deal, Tongue said.
Most kids don't wear helmets when they sled, however. In a study
based at St. Louis Children's Hospital, only tow of 83 patients had
worn helmets, Tongues said. But 91 percent of the children had gloves,
and 61 percent had waterproof boots, he said.
The idea of using OR- helmets when sledding deserves
consideration, said Dr. Frederick P. Rivara of Seattle, an expert on OR-
helmet use. His 1992 study of Seattle-area injuries showed no
decreased risk of head injury among children who wore helmets while
But the study cautioned that there may have been too few children in
helmets to make the analysis meaningful. "My guess is that they are
probably protective, and there's no way they could be harmful," he
The physicians group's national safe-sledding campaign highlights
helmet use as well as not going down headfirst, and sledding with adult
supervision off streets in areas free of hazards such as rocks and
Tongue also is working with the Pacific Northwest region of the
National Forest Service to promote sledding safety, including helmet
use. The Agriculture Department agency has ski and sled runs on some of
Ski area operators can make sure the snow play areas they operate
are well-groomed and monitored, but in unregulated areas, "the family
just dives off the hill, and we can't manage it," said Temple
Tait-Ochs, the region's safety manager.
Two managed sled runs are in the Mt. Hood, Ore., area. The ski
operation lets sledders use its ski helmets free, said Charlie
Wessinger, operator of the Summit ski area.
Only about 5 percent of sledders choose to use the helmets,
Wessinger said, "That's a real low, but two years ago, it was zero
percent," he said.