Winter Sports Safety for Kids   

Winter Sports Safety for Kids

Instructor teaching little skier how to make turns, young boy doing exercise on slope in children's area.

December 13, 2023

Skiing, snowboarding and sledding, oh my! The season for winter sports is here, and many kids are clamoring to get outdoors to enjoy them.

But with winter sports comes the potential for injury as a result of low temperatures, slippery surfaces and fast speeds. Our experts answer common questions about keeping kids safe and healthy while enjoying winter sports. 

What Age Is Appropriate to Begin Winter Sports?

“The general consensus is that winter sports can begin at the age of 3,” says Paul T. Haynes, M.D., a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. However, he notes, every child is different.

“You should make sure that your child not only has the physical mobility but also can understand and respond to basic instructions and commands,” says Nicole M. Marcantuono, M.D., division chief of Pediatric Physiatry at Jersey Shore.

How Should I Dress My Kids?

How your children dress for their day on the slopes or snow hills is extremely important: 

  • Dress in layers. “Kids should dress in layers and cover all exposed skin,” Dr. Haynes says. “This will allow you to adapt to the conditions on the mountain and the variance in temperature.”
  • Choose appropriate fabrics. Wet or thin clothes can quickly ruin the fun. “Avoid clothing that loses heat, such as denim, and instead wear a waterproof outer layer,” says Dr. Marcantuono.
  • Secure loose strings. Many sweatshirts and coats have drawstrings that could be hazardous particularly on ski lifts. It’s important to secure these loose strings.
  • Wear a helmet. Helmets are a necessity, and proper fit is key. “Check to make sure your child’s helmet comes down over the forehead and covers the base of the skull,” says Dr. Marcantuono. “The chin strap should be securely under the chin, and the helmet should not move.”
  • Useother safety equipment as needed. Other safety equipment may be needed depending on the sport your child will be participating in, so do some research into the sport and see what other protections are recommended.

Are Ski Leashes and Harnesses Helpful?

Safety harness and leash devices can be helpful tools to teach children to ski, but only if they are used appropriately. If an adult holds the leashes too tightly—or if they let the child pull them violently—they can lead to injuries, Dr. Marcantuono says. Harnesses and leashes are intended to guide kids in the right direction. They are not intended to be so tight that they dictate the child’s movement, or be so loose that the child can move out of control down a hill. 

What Signs of Concussion Should I Be Aware of? 

Unfortunately, no matter how much we prepare, accidents do happen. If your child hits their head, Dr. Marcantuono advises to be on the lookout for signs of concussion including:

  • Headache
  • Balance problems
  • Sudden tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Blacking out

“If you suspect that your child may have a concussion, get them off the slopes and stop activity until you can get them medical attention,” Dr. Marcantuono says. “If you see any of these signs after they hit their head, you should take them to the nearest emergency department for evaluation.”

Keeping Your Child Safe Outdoors

While safety gear is essential for protecting heads and limbs, other factors can pose dangers, so take breaks and check the following:

Temperature: Low temperatures can pose a real danger. “Children get colder faster than adults,” Dr. Haynes says. Look for these signs that your child might be getting too cold:

  • Pink or icy fingers
  • Shivering
  • Bright pink cheeks, nose or ears
  • Wet clothing

Hydration: It may be cold outside, but winter sports are still vigorous activity. Hydration remains important. Be sure your child drinks plenty of water before they hit the slopes, then grab some water each time they go indoors for a bathroom break, for a meal or just to warm up.

Fatigue: As you become tired, vigilance can wane. Take frequent breaks and be prepared to adjust your plans and expectations for the day based on your child’s needs.

“Children always learn by example, so it’s important for adults to wear appropriate gear, as well,” says Dr. Haynes. “A day on the mountain can be exciting, and safety measures will keep the experience positive.” 

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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