Healthy Tahoe: How to keep your cool while sledding |

Healthy Tahoe: How to keep your cool while sledding

Targhee Oeveraas, MD, MS, FACEP
Targhee Oeveraas

Winter is in full force in Tahoe, and with it comes an influx of eager snowplayers. Sledding and snow tubing are sure to be among the winter activities that families pursue, and like many contact sports, risk of injury is increased. 

Falling off a sled can result in injuries including bruises, cuts and broken bones, and commonly, concussions. Other common sledding-related injuries include solid organ injuries, vertebral fractures, and chest trauma. Sledders can get seriously hurt if their sled hits a stationary object, such as a rock or a tree.

Each year, sledding injuries account for a significant number of trauma visits at Barton Memorial Hospital. Many of these emergency department visits are adults who fall off the sled or are hit by their child’s flailing arms or legs. As common as collisions with objects or other people are, it’s important to note that children younger than six years old are at particularly high risk for extremity injuries and head injuries, which can result in permanent disability, such as cognitive impairment. 

Most traumas due to sledding can be prevented. Opt for a controlled environment, like a snowplay/ tubing park, and always supervise children. Follow these best practices to remain injury-free and out of the emergency room:

  • Make sure the area is clear and well lit. Only sled in areas clear of trees and other obstacles, such as fences, light poles, and rocks. Although frequently seen, families should never sled in the street or on hills that drop off into a street, parking lot, or body of water.
  • Stay in control. Position yourself on your backside and ensure the sled can be stopped with your feet. Avoid stomach-down positioning as it offers no foot control, and if there’s a crash, the head is at greater risk for injury. 
  • Don’t overload a sled. Only the recommended number of passengers should ride at one time. Never ride a sled that’s being pulled by a car, ATV, snowmobile, or other motorized vehicle. Tubes offer little control, and should be used at controlled tubing parks with banked pathways, often found at ski resorts.
  • Mind your material. Never sled on a plastic sheet or other material that can be punctured by objects on the ground. Wear many layers of clothing while sledding and consider wearing a helmet for protection from injury.

Knowing where to go in a health emergency will help you receive the best treatment possible. Barton Urgent Care, located in Stateline, just across the California-Nevada border in Lake Tahoe, offers services to address minor cuts and burns, sprains and broken bones, and concussion follow-up, along with other urgent medical care services. However, Urgent Care does not treat life-threatening conditions, nor provide advanced imaging. For more concerning injuries, the Barton Emergency Department, near ‘the Y’ in South Lake Tahoe, offers 24-Hour Emergency Care. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.

By being aware of the risks and implementing these safe practices, you can avoid common sledding injuries and avoid a visit to the emergency room or urgent care.

Dr. Targhee Oeveraas, MD, MS, FACEP is the Medical Director of the Emergency Department, and a practicing Emergency Medicine Physician at Barton Memorial Hospital. Barton’s Level III Trauma Center provides immediate availability of emergency medicine physicians, surgeons, nurses, lab and x-ray technicians, and life support equipment 24-hours a day. Learn more at

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