Tobogganing safety, not bans, suggested by expert doctor

Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, past-president of the Canadian Medical Association says an outright ban on tobogganing goes too far, noting the recreation can be fun and safe.

Doctor says head injuries can be devastating, wear a helmet

A toboggan run in Saskatchewan. (Ches Burns)

Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, past-president of the Canadian Medical Association [the CMA] says an outright ban on tobogganing goes too far, noting the recreation can be fun and safe.

Francescutti spoke to CBC Saskatchewan's Blue Sky Tuesday following reports that some communities were putting limits on where people could slide down a hill.

"A ban outright? It may reduce your injuries, but it also encourages kids to stay home and play Nintendo games and adults to stay home and watch TV," Francescutti said, responding to the notion of banning tobogganing. "Anything that restricts or discourages people from going out and having fun — as a family or individually or with friends — I think is bad."

In addition to his work with the CMA, Dr. Francescutti is an emergency department physician, a university professor, an international speaker and past-president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

It's no fun to see your six-year-old kid with either a six inch laceration on their forehead, or concussed, or even worse, breaking their neck and being in a wheelchair for the rest of their life.- Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti

He speculated that places that have imposed restrictions on sledding may have done so because cities and municipalities don't want to be liable for people who get hurt on their property.

But Francescutti believes communities could take another approach and groom hills, that are safer for the public. He noted fatalities from tobogganing can happen, but they are rare and usually happen when people enter a road area or parking lot and there is a vehicle involved.

Wear a helmet, doctor says

His recommendation is for everyone on a sled, youngsters and adults, to wear helmets.

"It's not good enough to just insist them for your kids," he added. "You really should be a role model."

Toboggan hills can be good fun with a safety helmet. (CBC)

While he understands that a helmet may, for some, take the fun out of sliding down hills, the doctor believes safety should come first.

"It's no fun to see your six-year-old kid with either a six inch laceration on their forehead, or concussed, or even worse, breaking their neck and being in a wheelchair for the rest of their life," he said.

He said there can be general bumps and bruises after a toboggan and most people don't get hurt. But head injuries can be very serious.

"If you're seriously injured with a helmet on, chances are you probably would have died without the helmet on," he said.

Francescutti suggested going to a sporting goods store to find a helmet for tobogganing.

He noted another hazard facing tobogganers, especially teens, is frostbite due to inadequate clothing.
 

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