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Sledging Ė donít forget your helmet!

11,000 children hurt themselves severely when doing winter sports. Whereas most children wear a helmet when skiing, a lot of them do not wear one when sledging or ice-skating.

The head in particular needs protection when undertaking fast-paced sports. Almost 700 children were treated at the University Hospital for Youth Surgery in Graz last year. Michael Höllwarth, child surgeon and president of the organisation "Große schützen Kleine" said: "A large group of those injured were skiers, but also ice-skaters and bob-sliders."

The worst-case scenario is that the children are left disabled through massive brain damage. However, only a quarter of the group of 0-14-year-olds wear a helmet when ice-skating and only 5 per cent wear a helmet when they go sledging.

In comparison, over 80 per cent of 14-year-olds wear a helmet when they go skiing. Therefore, the rate of people getting injured when going ice-skating is higher than when going skiing.

Höllwarth says that sledging is the most dangerous sport in this sense. "If you lose control, you can crash against a tree, a tree trunk or a rock. That is dangerous. That is why it is important to know how to use a sledge and to wear a helmet", the surgeon says.

"Wearing a helmet is important for cycling, too. If a cyclist driving at 15 kph crashes into a car with a speed of 50 kph, the total speed is 50 kph. That is like falling from 10 metres into an empty swimming pool."

Experts have demanded better equipment for sledging. Many injuries could be avoided in this way.

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