In recent years, more and more people – particularly kids – have worn helmets when ice skating and sledding. This makes sense, because in the past couple of decades helmet wearing and biking has become commonplace. Yet thousands of winter sports injuries still happen every year.
In fact, according to a 2010 analysis of U.S. emergency room reports, children and teens on sleds account for at least 20,820 injuries in the United States each year.
For the most part, people accept snowmobile related deaths or those caused by a person falling through partially frozen ice. But sledding deaths, for some reason, are tougher to accept. Perhaps this is because sledding is so simple. It doesn’t require any skill. And for those people who grew up with winter, sledding memories are plentiful.
Plus, sledding is fun.
But if the topic arises, there are a number of people who have scary-to-downright-tragic stories about sledding or tobogganing.
In 1971, Betsy Holmes’ sister, who was 15 at the time, went sledding on New Year’s Eve day at The North Point hill by the water tower. At the bottom of the hill, she ran into a fire hydrant.
"She is a paraplegic now, so yes, I think it is dangerous," says Holmes. "And yet I had no problem letting my little boy sled on a safe hill on a safe sled, supervised."
Meredith GrobPolewski had a close call a few winters ago when her daughter flew head first into a frozen log at the bottom of a sledding hill.
"Her whole life flashed before my eyes. Thankfully, she was totally OK, but now I'm way more careful and nervous and overprotective when we sled," she says.
Milwaukee artist Clive Promhows broke a finger while sledding near the Water Tower near St. Mary’s Hospital.
"We weren’t on the regular hill. It was the one across the street which had the nickname ‘hill of death,’" says Promhows. "I guess it was my own fault by spraying too much Pam on the bottom of my tube."
But other perspectives on sledding make sense, too. Child obesity is also a challenge in this country, and eliminating sports from football to sledding because they are dangerous might make kids even less active which isn’t good either.
Andy Guidinger grew up sledding at Hawthorne Hills in Fredonia. He believes it is a safe sport if adults survey the area – making sure it’s clear of trees and other obstacles – and if they talk to the kids about safety.
"Some of my favorite memories are sledding. Small hills and big. Sure sledding can be dangerous, but when I was growing up the dangerous part was the kids who were not supervised," says Guidinger. "We were lucky because my friend’s father always gave us safety knowledge and made sure we were behaving."
Shannon Knapp’s son, Oscar, broke his fibula and shattered his growth plate during a sledding accident. Knapp agrees that parental advice and setting rules are extremely important when sledding.
"At first, my son spent about a year blaming sledding and even ‘that hill.’ He didn't even want to drive near it nor did he do anything outside the following winter," says Knapp. "After a lot of talking, he took responsibility for the mistakes he made that led to the accident and owned up to the fact that he had ignored the first and only rule I ever gave him: watch where you are going and dump out of your sled if you're headed for something scary. Everything in life is dangerous, if you behave recklessly."
Chris Krez firmly believes with the "anything can be dangerous" sentiment.
"Anything is dangerous. Walking down the street these days is more dangerous than going sledding," says Krez.
Keith Brammer used to go sledding at Wirth Park in Brookfield and says danger is an important aspect of childhood.
"Dangerous equals fun when you're a child. As long as the hill doesn't dump you out directly on to a road, you're great," he says.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.