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Sledding: How Fast Can They Go?

Cimpello, Lynn Babcock MD; Garcia, Madelyn MD, MPH; Rueckmann, Eric MD; Markevicz, Colleen MD

The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care: March 2009 - Volume 66 - Issue 3 - p S23-S26
doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e318160f856
Original Articles

Background: Sledding, a fun and easily accessible winter sport, can potentially generate significant speed and energy posing a risk of injury. The objective of this study was to determine the speeds and potential kinetic energy generated by sledders.

Methods: Observational study conducted of single sledders at sledding hills located in Monroe County, NY during February 2007. Participant’s weight, age, and sled type were recorded. Speeds were recorded using Stalker police grade radar guns. Multiple runs by each sledder were measured. The kinetic energy for each run was calculated. Investigators recorded observations about injuries, near misses, and other safety issues.

Results: Seventy-six participants were enrolled with ages ranging from 4 year old to adult, including 54 children (18 years) with median age 9 years (range, 4-14 years). Of the 145 runs by single riders, 54 were on inner tubes, 89 on plastic/hard foam sleds, and 2 on other. The average speed was 19 mph (range, 14-25 mph). The average kinetic energy was 1,872 J (range, 329-6,441 J). Sledders on inner tubes went faster and generated more kinetic energy than those on plastic/hard foam sleds; mean 20.3 mph (95% CI 19.5-21.0) versus 18.3 mph (95% CI 17.8-18.7), p < 0.0001 and mean 2,136 J (95% CI 1,752-2,520) versus 1,707 J (95% CI 1,478-1,936), p < 0.05, respectively. None of the sledder wore a helmet and no injuries were observed.

Conclusion: The potential for injury with sledding increases with weight and use of inner tubes, thus safe sledding practices and helmet use should be encouraged.

From the Department of Emergency Medicine; University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York.

Submitted for publication November 1, 2007.

Accepted for publication November 2, 2007.

Supported by Ronald McDonald Charities of Rochester; Seed Research Fund; Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine; Department of Emergency Medicine; University of Rochester Medical Center.

Presented as Abstract/Poster at National Conference and Exhibition of the American Academy of Pediatrics, San Francisco, CA October 29, 2007, and as abstract/oral presentation at Injury Free Coalition for Kids Annual Conference, Fort Lauderdale, FL December 1, 2007.

Address for reprints: Lynn Babcock-Cimpello, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Box 655, Rochester, NY 14642; email:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.