Family to wear helmets after sledding concussion

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Cathy England never noticed kids wearing helmets while sledding when she has taken her three sons to enjoy the winter activity. Now, she is one of those families that requires it.

Her oldest son, Mason, suffered a concussion this week while sledding down a hill they have been to countless times before at Mulick Park in Grand Rapids.

“He meant to go on the bump, but his sled went backwards, he got thrown in the air and came right down on his head then on his face,” explained England.

An undated courtesy photo of Mason England.

He was dizzy when he got up, and a trip to Helen Devos Children’s Hospital confirmed it was a concussion. Mason was on “brain rest” for the next 24 hours, meaning no screens, no reading, no games — just rest.

Doctors have seen hundreds of patients with sledding injuries this year, including five patients who had to be admitted with injuries from winter sports.

Jennifer Hoekstra, an injury prevention specialist at the children’s hospital, advocates for children to wear helmets while sledding.

“We don’t want to mess with our heads or our brains. We have amazing surgeons, but if you ask any of them, they will pick a broken leg over a broken skull or brain injury any day,” said Hoekstra.

She said with so many people on a sledding hill there is a high risk of person-to-person contact as well as ice can be hiding under what looks like snow.

If a parent can’t find or afford a winter sports helmet, Hoekstra said even a bike helmet will work if you wear a thin hat or headband — not something too bulky.

“Yes, they may be the only ones but if your kids are the first ones, your neighbors will be the second ones and their friends will be the third then it will become a natural thing,” she said.

Hoekstra also wants to remind parents to pay attention to the surroundings, making sure the hill doesn’t lead to a parking lot, fence or posts. Don’t be afraid to be the leader for designating where children should walk up the hill and where they should sled down to avoid collisions.

Cathy England has no problem become a helmet trendsetter now that she has seen what can happen without one. She said even her kids don’t want to get back on the hill without that added protection.