SATURDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Head injuries are a major cause of children's hospitalizations due to sledding crashes, a new study finds.

Researchers examined data on 52 children younger than 18 who were hospitalized for sledding injuries at a pediatric trauma center between 2003 and 2011. The 34 boys and 18 girls were an average age of 10 and the most common cause of injury was hitting a tree (63.5 percent).

Twenty (37 percent) of the children suffered a head injury, and 70 percent of those children were admitted to the intensive care unit. Three of them suffered permanent disability, such as cognitive impairment, and two others required long-term in-hospital rehabilitation.

Other sledding-related injuries suffered by children in the study included fractures (17 children), solid organ injuries (10), vertebral fractures (3) and chest trauma (1). Nine orthopedic injuries required surgery and eight patients went home with a cast.

The study was slated to be presented Oct. 15 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Boston. The findings show the need for public education campaigns to highlight the potential dangers of sledding and to encourage helmet use, according to lead author Dr. Richard Herman.

"We've seen a large increase in severe injuries resulting from sledding over the past year," he said in an AAP news release.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers sledding safety advice.