Minnesota doctors urge families to take precautions after seeing uptick in sledding-related accidents

Alex Jokich
Updated: February 25, 2021 06:38 PM
Created: February 25, 2021 05:38 PM

A doctor at Children's Minnesota was on-call in the emergency department when her own son was brought in by ambulance, following a serious sledding accident.

Dr. Brianne Roby hopes her family's experience can serve as a warning to others, as Minnesota is seeing a significant uptick in sledding-related injuries.

Children's Minnesota reports 13 sledding-related hospitalizations in January, where children had injuries serious enough to be admitted to the hospital. That marks a 225% increase from January 2020, when only four children were hospitalized. In January 2019, only two children suffered serious injuries from sled crashes.

Doctors believe the increase in sledding-related hospitalizations is likely due to families spending more time outside during the pandemic.

Dr. Roby said her son's incident occurred while he was sledding with her husband and daughter in late December.

"My husband called and he said, 'Are you still at the hospital? We are in an ambulance. Jake has been in an accident,'" Dr. Roby recalled. "I assumed he would just have some cuts and bruises, but as they pulled my son out of the ambulance, he was unconscious and he started to have a seizure at that time, so it was all hands on deck."

Dr. Roby learned her son had jumped on a snow tube that went spinning out of control down the hill into a tree.

"He hit the tree, the back of his head right there, full force on the snow tube," Dr. Roby explained. "He had a skull fracture and a subdural head bleed."

Dr. Roby said Children's Minnesota called their trauma team for Jake's case. He did not end up needing emergency surgery but was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit.

"And surrounded by us while we were in the ICU were numerous other kids, just on that single weekend, who had all had similar sledding accidents," Dr. Roby said.

Dr. Kyle Halvorson, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's Minnesota, said he has seen multiple children this winter involved in sledding crashes.

"They have complex injuries that we don’t really think we’ve seen as extensively in the past," Dr. Halvorson said. "Even the children who have more mild injuries can suffer long-term concussion-like symptoms, headaches. It really does impact their lives and, most of the time, not in a very positive way."

Dr. Roby said her son ended up making a 'miraculous' recovery, although he has suffered slight personality changes since his head trauma.

Both Dr. Roby and Dr. Halvorson urge parents to put helmets on kids before they go sledding.

"I'm amazed that it's not a bigger issue. I’m amazed that we hear about wearing helmets for bicycling, for rollerblading and yet we don't hear about it for sledding, in a state like Minnesota where sledding is such a big thing,” Dr. Roby said. “And I should know better, as a pediatric surgeon for head and neck. I should know better and the fact that I didn't realize it tells me that most parents probably don't realize it either."

Dr. Halvorson added, "Any helmet is better than no helmet. If your family resources allow for a bike helmet, put a bike helmet on. I can definitely empathize with these parents who are just sending their kids to play outside and thinking everything is going to be fine. Unfortunately, when they come to us, we end up having to tell them a very different story. Sometimes that story is not one that any parent would ever want to hear."

Doctors also urge parents to pick a sledding hill where there are not as many fixed objects that kids could crash into, such as trees or benches.


Copyright 2021 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

LIVE UPDATES: Protesters gather in Brooklyn Center for 7th night

Brooklyn Center mayor issues 11 p.m. curfew Saturday

10 new COVID-19 deaths, 2,429 new cases, MDH reports

Law enforcement: 136 people arrested Friday in connection with Brooklyn Center unrest

The queen says goodbye to Philip, continues her reign alone