An Analysis of Head Injuries among Skiers and Snowboarders


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Abstract

Background Head injury is the leading cause of death and critical injury in skiing and snowboarding accidents.Methods Data relating to head injuries occurring on the ski slopes were collected from the trauma registry of a Level I trauma center located near a number of ski resorts.Results From 1982 to 1998, 350 skiers and snowboarders with head injuries were admitted to our Level I trauma center. Most of the injuries were mild, with Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores of 13 to 15 in 81% and simple concussion in 69%. However, 14% of patients had severe brain injuries, with GCS scores of 3 to 8, and the overall mortality rate was 4%. Collision with a tree or other stationary object (skier-tree) was the mechanism of injury in 47% of patients; simple falls in 37%; collision with another skier (skier-skier) in 13%; and major falls in 3%. Skier-tree collision and major falls resulted in a higher percentage of severe injuries, with GCS scores of 3 to 8 in 24% and 20%, respectively, and mean Injury Severity Scores of 14 and 17, respectively. Mortality from skier-tree collision was 7.2%, compared with 1.6% in simple falls and no deaths from skier-skier collision or major falls. The risk of sustaining a head injury was 2.23 times greater for male subjects compared with female subjects, 2.81 times higher for skiers/boarders ≤ 35 years of age compared with those > 35 years, and 3.04 times higher for snowboarders compared with skiers.Conclusion Skier-tree collision was the most common mechanism for head injuries in patients admitted to our Level I trauma center, and resulted in the most severe injuries and the highest mortality rate. Because most traumatic brain injuries treated at our facility resulted from a direct impact mechanism, we believe that the use of helmets can reduce the incidence and severity of head injuries occurring on the ski slopes.

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