Mom warns of tobogganing risk as daughter struggles with concussion

A Winnipeg woman is warning other parents to think twice before letting their children go tobogganing, after her daughter suffered a concussion last year.

Avoid tobogganing altogether or at least take safety precautions, says Lynne Comeault

A Winnipeg woman is warning other parents to think twice before letting their children go tobogganing, after her daughter suffered a concussion in 2014. 2:01

A Winnipeg woman is warning other parents to think twice before letting their children go tobogganing, after her daughter suffered a concussion last year.

"After having lived what I've lived, I would say to choose something else to do outside. Avoid, as much as possible, tobogganing," said Lynne Comeault, whose 13-year-old daughter, Manon, continues to deal with symptoms to this day.

Comeault said Manon was tobogganing down a slide at Festival du Voyageur in February 2014 when she sustained the concussion.

A number of Canadian cities have introduced restrictions on tobogganing or are reviewing municipal policies related to winter sliding. The City of Winnipeg says it is not considering a ban on tobogganing. (AP)
"I was not expecting the severity … of the injury. I really was not expecting that," Comeault said.

"You hear a lot of people that have concussions and most will last two weeks, some will last three months, and there's a very small percentage that last more than three months. So she falls into that."

Almost a year later, Manon has not been able to return to school full-time, her mother said.

"They can't tell as to when she'll be better. Like, the brain is very complicated and every concussion is different," said Comeault.

"She has highs and lows. Like, sometimes she will be not bad, and then she goes on a low where she can't get out of bed — she stays in her bed the whole day — because she got too much pain or she's too dizzy."

Helmet 'might have helped her'

Comeault said parents should consider avoiding tobogganing altogether, or at least make sure their children are safe.

"If you do toboggan, maybe wear a helmet; it might have helped her," she said.

Lynne Comeault says her 13-year-old daughter, Manon, sustained a concussion while tobogganing in February 2014. (CBC)
"Maybe check the slide before going down, make sure there's no bumps. If there are, fill them up."

Tobogganing carries risk that can lead to injuries, said Dr. Wayne Hildahl, chief executive officer of the Panam Clinic in Winnipeg.

"Most of them are minor; let's put it in perspective. But you do see some major injuries," Hildahl said.

"I talked to my colleagues at children's [emergency] and they've seen several, even this year, of very severe injuries of hitting a tree, having skull fractures, bleeding into the brain. That is not insignificant."

No tobogganing ban in Winnipeg

Some North American cities have imposed restrictions on tobogganing, including Hamilton, Ont., which bans winter sliding in city parks and recently raised the maximum fine to $5,000.

Municipal officials in Sudbury, Ont., Calgary and St. John's are currently reviewing their policies on winter sliding.

The City of Winnipeg, which maintains four toboggan hills and numerous winter slides, is not considering a ban at this time, a spokesperson told CBC News.

None of the hills and slides are supervised, meaning users are sliding at their own risk, the spokesperson said.

Anyone with safety concerns about a city-run toboggan hill or slide is encouraged to call 311. They are inspected throughout the winter, and repairs are made as necessary, according to the city.

Some medical experts say an outright ban on tobogganing is not the answer. Instead, they recommend wearing properly-fitting helmets and sliding down a hill kneeling or seated facing forward, never sliding head-first or lying down.

"If I was taking a grandchild — when I have one — tobogganing and I was going down a pretty steep hill, I would want my grandchild to wear a helmet," said Hildahl.

He added that it's important to be generally careful and ensure that there's enough room at the bottom of the hill to come to a slow stop.


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