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Trauma experts: Wear a helmet while sledding

Admissions at U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital have doubled this year

On Sunday afternoon, 8-year-old Leonardo Brackett, his dad and younger sister set off for McClumpha Park in Plymouth for a little sledding.

There were a lot of older kids doing tricks and Leo wanted to join them in the fun. In a matter of seconds, everything went wrong.

“Put your feet down!” his dad yelled. But Leo, of Canton, lost control and slammed into a tree.

Leo severed his left ear and sustained a serious skull fracture.

He was transported to the Emergency Department at U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital – luckily there was an ambulance at the park already treating another kid for a broken arm. Leo was in the operating room for 2.5 hours, his ear was re-attached and doctors removed fractured skull pieces. While severe, Leo was lucky. He’s expected to make a full recovery, says his mom Lindsay Brackett.

Leo’s was the ninth major injury involving sleds so far this year at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the highest number on record, says Mott’s Injury Prevention Program Manager Amy Teddy.

Since 2007, 30 pediatric patients have been admitted to Mott for injuries sustained while sledding. This year, with several weeks of winter remaining, the number of sledding related admissions has doubled over previous years.

“There’s a lot of discussion nationally about recommendations for helmet use while sledding,” says Teddy says. “We can say with certainty that the severity of injuries would have been reduced in all of these incidents if kids had been wearing a helmet at the time.”

Patients have been brought in from all around the state for injuries involving a young person sledding and slamming into a fixed object – a light pole, rocks and trees – they are very common.

“Some injuries involve a child being pulled behind a four-wheeler or a snowmobile,” Teddy says. “Sledding is something that people don’t tend to associate with helmets. But if you are doing something that involves moving at a high rate of speed, you should wear a helmet.”

Leo’s mom, Lindsay says her three kids will all wear helmets from now on.

“I don’t care if they’re the only ones out there wearing them,” she says.

Mark S. Molitor, Jr., M.D.,a pediatric trauma clinical lecturer at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital says most people don’t think of sledding as an activity that requires a helmet.

“People think of it as going out to have some fun in the snow, sled down a hill,” says Molitor. “They don’t think of wearing a helmet when in fact most injuries we see are from people sledding at high rates of speed, losing control and hitting a fixed object.”

Facts about winter sports injuries:

  • Children ages 14 and under are at a high risk for winter sports injuries.
  •  In 2007, 24,500 estimated injuries from sledding across the U.S.

Tips to keep your kids safe during sledding:

  • Kids can suffer serious head injuries from sledding, and should always wear a helmet.
  • When sledding, do not go down a hill head-first. Sit up, face forward, use a clear, safe path and make sure an adult is supervising.

A safe sledding hill does not lead to a street, a body of water or a crowded gathering place. Tips provided by Safe Kids Coalition at

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