Tobogganing Injuries at Record High: The Montreal Children’s Hospital Trauma Centre offers advice to plank the injuries

Montreal, January 08, 2021: There has been a record high number of children and teens injured while sledding and tobogganing this winter. So far, the Trauma Centre at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre has treated 70 children in the last three weeks alone. For some years, this is the number of injuries we see during an entire season (see statistics below).

Conrad wrapped himself around a tree while sledding down a ski hill in the Laurentians in March of last year.  The now 14-year-old broke the femur in one leg and his ankle and tibia in the other. The Trauma and Orthopedics teams at the Children’s got him back on his feet, but it took a while. The teen underwent surgery, spent a week in hospital, was bedridden at home for a few more and needed physiotherapy therapy to regain his strength. It took Conrad five months to fully recover.

“It had rained the night before and the hill was like a skating rink. I totally lost control of my sled and went right into the trees at full speed. I am super lucky I didn’t hit my head, because I probably would have died,” Conrad explains. “My advice to kids is to be careful not to get caught up in the moment. Before you jump on the sled and take off down the hill, consider the risks and decide if it is safe.”

Troubling trend

The statistics from the Children’s Trauma Centre:           

~70 patients consulted the MCH ED for tobogganing-related injuries

between December 10, 2020 and January 3, 2021

For the same period in previous years, the highest we’ve seen was 50 cases in 2004 and 49 cases in 1995 with the average being 30-35 cases. Here is a bit about those injured in recent weeks:

  • Half were females and half were males.
  • 47% were the result of hitting/crashing into a hard object such as walls, fences, trees, tables, rocks and poles. 38% fell off their toboggan and 15% collided or were hit by another person.
  • Over 95% reported wearing NO helmet.
  • The age ranged from 3-17 years of age with 38% under 6 years of age.

“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.


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

“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.


To speak with our bilingual Trauma Specialists and with Conrad, contact

Lisa Dutton
ÀDirector of Media Relations
Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation
[email protected]