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The Sledding Dos and Don'ts Your Muscles Will Love

By Brandon Pytel and Hillary Oberpeul | January 30, 2018 Other
The Sledding Dos and Don'ts Your Muscles Will Love

Tips and tricks to keep you feeling great, even if you do take a sledding-related tumble.

Sledding: a classic winter pastime and one of our favorites (especially if we get to partake on a snow day!). There’s nothing quite like getting together with friends and family to speed down the slopes, then huddling up with some hot chocolate afterward. But sledding can also have a downside—one usually related to injuries sustained from trying to live out the winter glory days.

According to a recent study, sledding causes over 20,000 emergency room visits for children each year. What’s worse? The most commonly injured area was the head, which was twice as likely to get injured as any other part of the body.

But children aren’t the only ones who have to worry about the potential dangers of sledding. Because adults are bigger and heavier than children, the potential for injury while sledding can actually increase among adults.

So, what can you do to keep you and your family safe while you’re on the sledding hills this season? Know the possible injuries and keep these tips in mind. Trust us, your body will thank you.

Common Sledding-Related Injuries (and How to Avoid Them)

Sledding can affect any part of your body—you never know which way your body is going to twist and turn when you go down a hill. Below are some common injuries that sledding can cause (plus, a couple of solutions you can use right at home!).

Head Trauma

The most commonly injured area in a sledding accident is the head. In a recent study, researchers observed over 150 children affected by sledding-injuries. Over half of the injuries were to the neck and head region, but only three percent of the patients were wearing a helmet at the time of the injury.

How to avoid head injuries: Before you go sledding next time, think about strapping on a helmet meant for snow sports.

Knee and Ankle Sprains

In a three-year survey observing emergency room visits after a sledding injury, two of the top three most common diagnoses were knee and ankle sprains.

Knee sprains often involve one of two ligaments: the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) or the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL). ACL injuries can range from a slightly stretched ligament to a complete tear—usually caused by sudden changes in direction or from direct contact or collision (like falling off a sled or bouncing into a tree). MCL injuries are usually the result of a contact injury caused by a direct blow to the outside of the knee, like when a fellow sledder accidentally runs you down.

And your ankles are just as vulnerable when you’re sledding. That’s because your ankle is more than just a joint, it’s also a collection of ligaments and tendons that allows your foot to move up and down with little lateral or side-to-side movement. So when you overdo a left or right movement (like when you take an awkward step after falling off a sled or ), the ligaments that surround and connect your ankle to your foot stretch and sometimes tear, causing an ankle sprain.

How to alleviate knee and ankle pain: If you’ve got a knee or ankle sprain, one of the first steps is to use cold therapy—whether that’s a topical pain reliever, hot or cold pack or even the very snow you’re sledding on! Try to find a proven topical pain reliever, like Biofreeze® Pain Reliever, or use a hot/cold pack that can easily conform to your knee or ankle, like these from TheraPearl®. Cold therapy is usually recommended for injuries that:

    • Happened in the last 24 hours
    • Are swollen, inflamed or bruised
    • Feel warm to the touch

    How to avoid knee and ankle pain: Try strengthening exercises that incorporate resistance bands, like the TheraBand® CLX™. We love the CLX because it’s so versatile—the connected loops make it easy to transition from one exercise to another and get creative with your moves. The following exercises can help you get stronger before sledding or even recover from an injury.

    Exercises to Strengthen Your Knees

    CLX Monster Walk

    1. Put your feet through the center loops of the CLX band, moving the loops to just above your knees.
    2. Grasp the end loops of the CLX, using either an open or closed grip.
    3. Keeping your knees and hips slightly bent, take three steps to the side while keeping your back straight.
    4. Return to your starting position and repeat.

    CLX Squat

    1. Place each foot into the center loops of the CLX.
    2. Grasp the end loops of the CLX, using either an open or closed grip.
    3. Raise your arms to shoulder height with your feet hip-width apart, keeping your elbows bent.
    4. Slowly squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, without leaning forward,
    5. Slowly return to a standing position, keeping your back and neck neutral.
    6. Repeat.

    Exercises to Strengthen Your Ankles

    CLX Ankle Plantar Flexion

    1. Sit on the floor with both of your knees extended.
    2. Put one foot in a center loop of the CLX and grab the end loops of the band.
    3. Push your foot down against the resistance of the band.
    4. Hold and return to the starting position and repeat.

    CLX Ankle Eversion


    1. Begin in a seated position.
    2. Place one foot inside a loop (it doesn’t matter where on the band) and the other end of the band anchored to a heavy, stable object.
    3. Place your feet hip width apart and flex exercising toes toward your body and away from the midline against the resistance of the CLX.
    4. Keeping your heel on the ground and your legs stationary, hold briefly.
    5. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

    Lower Limb Fractures

    Though they may not be as common as the other injuries, lower limb fractures (when you fracture or break a bone in your leg) can certainly happen. But with a little attention to your surroundings and a little practice of your “tuck and roll,” you should be just fine.

    How to avoid lower limb fractures: Pick the right hill (free from obstacles, away from streets and parking lots and not too steep) and use the “look both ways” rule of thumb. Be sure to always check the surroundings before taking off down a hill, and if you have to, don’t forget to bail! Just make sure you don’t bail into someone else.

    Start With the Right Hill

    No matter where you’re planning on sledding, make sure you’ve scoped out the area first! You want to make sure that you choose a sledding hill that has the fun you want without being dangerous.

    Look for hills that…

        • Aren’t too steep and have a long flat area at the end.
        • Aren’t near any streets or parking lots.
        • Are free of any obstacles like rocks, trees or fences.
        • Are well lit. It’s always better to go sledding in the daytime when you can see many more of your surroundings, but if you go at night, you’re going to want lights.

      Safety Tips and Prevention

      Speaking of checking your surroundings, that’s only one of the many ways to prevent sledding accidents and injuries. Check out the below tips for some more.

      Warm Up and Cool Down

      Being blasted by cold winter air can cause contractions in your muscles and blood vessels, leaving your limbs vulnerable with a reduced blood supply.

      To avoid this, try the American Chiropractic Association recommended warm up and cool down knee-to-chest stretches before and after sledding. While sitting or lying on your back, pull your knees up to your chest and hold the position for 30 seconds.

      Find the Best (and Safest) Sled

      Research has shown that inner tubes can cause more serious injuries than traditional plastic or foam sleds. Sleds that can be steered and have brakes help to prevent the worst kind of accidents. Plus, good sleds are surprisingly inexpensive, so you don’t have to worry about springing for something you can’t afford.

      Dress for Success

      Sledding can get cold fast. Wear hats, gloves and a good jacket that prevents water from soaking your clothes and potentially causing frostbite or hypothermia. But avoid wearing scarves, which can get caught in the sled. And don’t forget about that helmet!

      Sled with Great Form

      Make sure to sit in a forward-facing position, and avoid leaning forward in a belly-flop stance—it compromises your control and leaves your head and neck area vulnerable to injury. Keep your arms and legs inside the sled to avoid exposing your limbs to any unforeseen obstacles. And if you have a younger child, make sure there’s an adult around to ensure all these precautions are taken.

      Don’t Freeze: Go to a Healthcare Professional

      For the most part, you’re probably going to be able to treat any sledding-related bumps and bruises at home. But if there’s swelling, persistent pain or limited function of the knee or ankle, it may be best to seek professional care. If this is the case, you can find a specialized healthcare provider in your area using the Professional Finder. For a detailed search by body part or objective (or even various healthcare professional types), enter your zip code and click “Continue.” Be sure each professional you see knows what other care you're using so all of your treatments complement each other.

      Accidents Happen

      Though it may seem unlikely at first, sledding injuries do happen. And if you have bumps, bruises or strains from a nasty fall, it’s best to be prepared with some fast-acting pain relief. When this happens, find relief with Biofreeze and TheraPearl, and recover with resistance exercises using the CLX.

      At the end of the day, though, know that many sledding injuries are preventable. Scoping out the surroundings, having the proper sledding technique and wearing the right clothes can all make for a safer sledding experience. So, next time you’re about to conquer your favorite hill, remember to take all these tips into account—you don’t want to let that hill conquer you!

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