MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Winter activities are a saving grace for many parents this year. But there’s a down side to all that fun.

As many search for COVID-friendly activities and flock to the hills, hospitals across the Twin Cities are seeing an uptick in sledding brain injuries.

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Like many families, amidst COVID, the Agovic family, from St. Louis Park, has been climbing up the walls.

So on Jan. 5, with snow on the ground, they decided to take a ride downhill, Ehilmana Agovic, mother to three says.

“It was a nice day and we want our kids to be active for their health,” she said.

But what started as healthy sledding turned deeply painful for 4-year-old Ishmail as his Dad Amer watched, “That sled just went straight down and I went after him and he went straight into a tree, he fell over and I ran to him . . . At the moment of injury, he was motionless. You would lift his hand, it would just fall down.”

Ishmail Agovic (credit: CBS)

Ishmail’s mother recalls wondering if her son was going to live.

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He was alive but not well. “He had a significant injury so that he was not able to walk and move his own body,” explained his doctor, Angela Sinner. “He had to get up again, and walk and talk and swallow and learn to eat again.”

A month later, Ishmail is still in Gillette Children’s Hospital. Because of patient privacy, WCCO cannot report an exact number, but there are currently several other children at Gillette because of traumatic brain injuries from sledding.

“Kids need to be outside and exercising so helping support them with a safe environment and a helmet for those kids is what I would recommend,” said Sinner. “Just like when kids are on their bikes.”

After Ishmail had part of his skull removed, he got to work and is healing fast, hoping to leave the hospital soon. His medical helmet is a reminder of a lesson his Mom wants other to avoid.

“If you are sledding put a helmet on his head. Buy the most effective one, don’t buy some cheap one,” she said.

Dr. Sinner says if you don’t have a winter helmet, a bike helmet will work when sledding. She says the key to a safe helmet is one that fits properly and covers the forehead.

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