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Safe Carroll: Gear up properly for safe winter sports

Winter wonderland means fun for millions, but for 180,000 Americans, winter also may mean serious sports-related injuries. Safe Kids Carroll County wants to remind you how to gear up this winter.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 84,000 skiers, 30,000 skaters, 30,000 hockey players, 20,000 sledders and tobogganers, and 19,000 snowmobilers will require hospital emergency room treatment for injuries this year.

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Proper and well-fitting equipment, physical conditioning, common sense and good sportsmanship could eliminate some accidents.

Skiing. Investigations of skiing accidents show that injuries occurred when bindings did not release and when the skier was going too fast, lost control or hit a mogul. A number of accidents happened when the skier was tired.

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Safe Kids Carroll County recommends to skiers:

1. Take lessons from an expert. Studies show that beginners are hurt more frequently, so advancement is desirable.

2. Use good quality equipment that fits well and ensure that equipment is clean — no dirt or salt between boots, bindings and binding mechanism.

3. Approach tow lifts with caution. Beware of long scarves that could become entangled in the tow rope.

4. Never tackle a slope that is obviously beyond personal skiing abilities. Ski marked trails and observe ski trail signs.

Skating. Recommendations to skaters include:

1. Never skate alone. Insist that children skate with a friend or in a group.

2. Stick to shallow flooded fields and supervised areas. Never skate on lakes, ponds or rivers until the ice has been tested by a local official. Never skate close to open bodies of water.

3. Keep small children off the ice except when closely supervised by adults.

Hockey. Hockey-related injuries recorded by the CPSC include ice, street, field and gym hockey. A major hazard in injuries associated with hockey was poor or ill fitting equipment and, in some cases, no equipment at all. During practice and fun sessions, young hockey players did not bother to wear face masks, helmets or gloves and were injured seriously. Poor sportsmanship also played a prominent role in hockey injuries. Players hit other players and bystanders who happened to get in the way.

Sledding. Never sled on the street or on hills that lead directly into the street. Numerous accidents occurred when sledders hit bumps or curbs or rammed a car. Also, never hook rides on the bumpers of cars.

Snowmobiling. According to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, there are nearly 2 million registered snowmobiles in North America (1.4 million in the United States and almost 600,000 in Canada). The majority of snowmobile accidents involved collisions with fixed or moving objects such as fence posts, trees, cars and other snowmobiles. Last year, the National Safety Council recorded about 156 deaths associated with snowmobiles.

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Basic health and comfort precautions can go a long way in preventing injury. Dress in layers. Wear sunscreen. Stay hydrated. Kids — or caregivers — who become distracted or irritable, or begin to hyperventilate, may be suffering from hypothermia or altitude sickness, or they may be too tired to participate safely in winter sports. They need to go indoors, rest and warm up.

For more information about sports safety, call 410-876-4448 or visit http://www.safekids.org. or http://www.cpsc.gov. Safe Kids Carroll County works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under.

Maggie Rauser is the Safe Kids Carroll County Coordinator for the Carroll County Health Department.

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