Keeping kids safe during winter sports all about planning and protection

Each year BC Children’s Hospital Emergency Department sees hundreds of children and youth for injuries resulting from winter sports.

These sports include ice hockey, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, and tobogganing among others. Last winter, (December 1, 2011 to February 29, 2012) BC Ambulance Service responded to approximately 600 calls from places for recreation or sport related to children and youth (18 years of age or younger). Of those calls, 550 were for traumatic injuries and falls.

BC Children’s Hospital and BC Ambulance Service have treated injuries including concussions as well as more severe brain injuries, facial and dental injuries, spinal cord injuries, chest and abdominal injuries, broken bones and soft tissue injuries.

Winter sports can be a fun way for children and youth to stay active. BCAS and BC Children’s have these tips to help children and youth enjoy winter activities safely:
• Kids need to wear the right and appropriately-sized protective equipment when participating in any winter sport. A properly-fitted helmet should be worn at all times, and is recommended for many sports. Wrist guards are also a good idea for snowboarders since sprains and fractures are a commonly-experienced injury.
• Choose the right type of helmet and ensure it is CSA approved. For skiing or snowboarding, use a ski or snowboard helmet. For ice hockey or ice skating, use an ice hockey helmet. A ski, hockey or bike helmet should be worn for tobogganing.
• Make sure kids learning a new activity get proper instruction and stay within their individual skill level. Ensure kids get enough practice before trying to move on to an advanced skill level.
• For sports that involve going downhill, make sure kids know how to control their speed and stop properly, especially if they are just learning or have not mastered certain skills.
• When picking a slope for tobogganing, make sure it is away from roads and free from obstacles like rocks, trees, and fences. Younger children should always be supervised by an adult. Never ride on a sled that is being pulled by anything motorized.
• Know the environment and the surrounding area where kids are going to be in when playing sports. For example, local authorities will often help determine if ice is thick enough for outdoor skating. Stay in bounds when skiing/snowboarding.

Parents and caregivers should learn first aid to know how to care for an injured child. More information is available from HealthLink BC at or by calling 8-1-1.