Winter Sports Safety

Skiing and Snowboarding

Children can hit the slopes at age 4 or 5, but they should take at least one professional skiing or snowboarding lesson first. Start beginners on an easy slope with gentle terrain -- and insist that they wear sunglasses or goggles. Head injuries can be responsible for skiing and snowboarding deaths, says Stuart Weinstein, M.D., professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, so helmets specifically designed for skiing are a must. (Many ski schools now require that children 12 and under wear them.) Teach kids to use caution when entering and exiting the ski lift, be aware of others on the slope, avoid skiing too fast, and never ski alone. Snowboarders should use wristguards, since there is an increased risk of wrist fractures from falls when kids are learning, explains Jordan Metzl, M.D., medical director of The Sports Medicine Institute for Young Athletes in New York City.

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