Group Advocates Helmets for Sledding Sledding equals funs for many kids. And that's led the Injury Free Coalition for Kids to advocate wearing protective helmets. The group says sledding speeds exceed those of biking and that head injuries are real concerns. Others say the safety craze is going too far.
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Group Advocates Helmets for Sledding

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Group Advocates Helmets for Sledding

Group Advocates Helmets for Sledding

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Kids tend to ignore the dangers of defying gravity in sleds. Hitting the snow hills at full speed is a winter blast for them. For some parents, the thrill has been replaced with worry.

WUWM Susan Bence reports.

Unidentified Woman: Go, Luis.

LUIS: Oh, man.

SUSAN BENCE: It's a clear cold late afternoon in Milwaukee. Two feet of well-packed snow blankets this popular neighborhood's sledding hill that everybody calls Dewey. Thirteen-year-old Henry Marx(ph) and his 9-year-old brother, Joseph, are squeezing in a few runs before the sun sets.

So listen, have you guys ever crashed into something?

Mr. HENRY MARX (Resident, Milwaukee): Oh, yeah. I almost went unconscious on a tree lately.

JOSEPH: Just today, I hit that tree.

Mr. MARX: And he almost went unconscious just today.

BENCE: Bridget Clementi coordinates the Injury Free Coalition for Kids in Milwaukee.

Mr. BRIDGET CLEMENTI (Coordinator, Injury Free Coalition for Kids): There are quite a few trees in this area. So I would have to say that maybe it doesn't make an A.

BENCE: Where would you put it?

Mr. CLEMENTU: Maybe about a C.

BENCE: Dr. Lynn Cimpello treats emergency patients at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Cimpello wanted to find out just how fast kids speed down the slopes, so she used a radar gun.

Dr. LYNN CIMPELLO (Emergency Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center): We recorded speeds of sledders(ph) going down various designated sledding hills. They were designated by our county parks and rec department as somewhat safe. Nineteen miles per hour was the average speed, with people going up to 25 miles per hour. Really, anybody who's travelling 25 miles an hour down a slope should probably wear a helmet.

BENCE: Back in Milwaukee, Licia Davy(ph) says she's taken her four kids sledding every winter for years. Her 8-year-old, Travis, is the youngest. Earlier this winter, Davis says she was on top of a designated sledding hill with her son. Travis has already taken a few great runs. So neither of them expected what happened next.

Ms. LICIA DAVY (Resident, Milwaukee): There was a big ramp that the older kids had built. He'd hit the ramp and his sled flew into the street. He went up in the air at least five feet and came directly down on his head.

BENCE: Davy says it was 17 hours later when Travis woke up in the hospital. While he doesn't remember anything about what happened on the hill, Davy says she'll never forget it and says, next time, her kids will wear lots of padding and helmets when sledding.

Across town, Henry and Joseph's mom, Mary Marx(ph), watches her son zoom down Dewey. She wants her kids to be able to enjoy that on-the-edge feeling of flying down the hill.

Ms. MARY MARX (Resident, Milwaukee): We all want this oh-so-regulated life that everything is safe. And it's not. My husband and I taught our kids how to bail off quickly. And you'll see the kids, they build jump and all kinds of things. I mean, sledding - it's joyful and it's fun.

BENCE: The Injury Free Coalition for Kids is launching a public awareness campaign to try to convince people like Mary to put helmets on their kids when they're barreling down snow-packed hills his winter.

For NPR News, I'm Susan Bence in Milwaukee.

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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