Tobogganing injuries continue to raise alarms at MCH Trauma Centre

Once again this year, for the second pandemic winter season, the Montreal Children’s Hospital Trauma Centre is reporting an elevated number of children and teens injured while sledding and tobogganing. So far, our Trauma Centre has treated upward of 50 children since mid December, many with serious injuries. The most common mechanism this year have occurred when the child or teen slides into a solid object such as a pole, bench, frozen bale of hay or other obstacles. Not all hills are meant for sledding.


 Troubling trend

“The pandemic has created significant challenges for everyone. Children and teens have been limited in their opportunities to socialize, and take part in individual and team sports and other recreational activities. Because of the limited options for physical activity, tobogganing and sledding have become more popular but, unfortunately, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of traumatic injuries compared to previous years,” says Debbie Friedman, Trauma Director at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. 

Friedman adds that it is important to look at the hill as not every slope makes for a safe toboggan hill. Last year, many municipalities reacted quickly and took positive action to improve the safety of their hills. This included: providing supervision, informing the community of the condition of the hill, creating sledding lanes, removing obstacles and adapting the hill to create a gentle slope.



*** From Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program

According to Dr. Laurie Plotnick, Medical Director and Kelly Cummins, the Nurse Manager of the Children’s Emergency Department (ED) the children and teens treated at the Children’s have sustained traumatic brain injuries, assorted limb fractures, abdominal and pelvic injuries, eye lacerations and dental trauma.

“By working together, parents, children, teens and local municipalities can reduce the number of injuries by following these safety tips,” says Trauma Centre’s Injury Prevention Coordinator Liane Fransblow.

  • Make sure there are no obstacles on the hill, such as park benches, trees, bicycle racks, bales of hay (which easily freeze), wooden boards, metal fences or other park equipment.
  • It is important to use hills specifically designated for sledding.
  • Always check the conditions of the hill; avoid icy conditions.
  • Ideally the bottom of the run should have enough flat open space so the toboggan comes to a stop by itself.
  • Never slide into the street.
  • A helmet (ski or hockey type) is highly recommended. High-speed impacts can result in serious traumatic brain injuries.
  • Use more traditional sleds and toboggans, which allow for better control.
  • Young children should always be supervised.
  • Avoid hills that exceed a child’s skill level. Ensure that younger children toboggan on hills with a gentle slope.
  • Do not pile too many people on a toboggan. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. 
  • Always sit facing forward, never stand or lie head-first.
  • If you lose control, roll-off sideways and do not try to stop the toboggan or sled using your hands or feet.
  • Get out of the way at the bottom of the hill to avoid being hit by oncoming sliders.
  • Toboggan during daylight.  Many injuries occur during the late afternoon or early evening.
  • Municipalities are encouraged to monitor the condition of the hill and should not hesitate to close hills when the conditions are dangerous.