MONTREAL -- The two major pediatric hospitals in the Montreal area are reporting large and worrying increases in the number of children who have been injured while sledding in recent weeks.

The Montreal Children's Hospital (MCH) of the McGill University Health Centre indicated on Friday that 70 children checked into its emergency room for injuries related to sledding between Dec. 10, 2020 and Jan. 3, 2021. It's the same number for the entire season some years, the hospital said.

By comparison, the highest number of cases recorded during the same period at the Children's was seen in 2004, when 50 children were injured.

Emergency physicians from CHU Sainte-Justine have treated 45 children, who were injured sledding since Dec. 31.

The two hospitals point out that there is a lack of alternative activities due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Injuries include concussions, sometimes severe fractures, abdominal or pelvic injuries and lacerations.

Data provided by the Montreal Children's Hospital shows that almost half of the injuries occurred in a collision with an object (such as a tree, rock or fence) and that 38 per cent of the victims were under six years old. Over 95 per cent of the victims were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

In addition to wearing a helmet, hospitals recommend, among other things, sledding in safe areas free of obstacles, checking the condition of the slope before setting off, and never heading down the hill headfirst or standing up.

Also, hospitals urge parents to not allow a child under five to sled alone, and since many injuries occur in the afternoon or evening, it is recommended to sled during the day.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2021.