Chair Lift Falls and Injuries in Children

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Abstract

Objective

The objective of this study was to compare demographic injury and treatment characteristics of hospitalized pediatric cases of falls from chair lifts to cases of other ski and snowboarding injuries and identify potential interventions for preventing falls from chair lifts.

Methods

Retrospective query of the trauma registry of Utah's only pediatric trauma center for children younger than 18 years requiring hospitalization for a ski or snowboarding injury from November 2004 to February 2014.

Results

There were 443 cases of hospitalized ski and snowboarding injuries during the study period. Twenty-nine cases (7%) fell from height while riding a chair lift. Children falling from chair lifts were more likely to be younger (6.9 years vs 12.1, P < 0.0001), female (41% vs 20%, P < 0.01), and elicit trauma team activation (72% vs 34%, P = <0.0001) but were less frequently treated in the operating room (14 vs 24%, P = 0.02) than children with other ski and snowboarding injuries. There were no differences in mortality, injury severity score, length of hospital stay, or airway intubation outside the operating room. When stated (11/29 cases), mean estimated height of fall from lift was 26 feet. The most common body region in chair lift falls with a significant injury (abbreviated injury scale, ≥3) was lower extremity (4/29, all femur fractures). Patient age discriminated chair lift falls well (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve, 0.87) with age of 7 years and below predicting chair lift fall with a sensitivity of 76% and a specificity of 91%.

Conclusions

Injuries requiring hospitalization after falls from chair lifts occur at regulated facilities and are more common in younger female children when compared with other ski and snowboarding injuries. Interventions for reducing falls from chair lifts may be most effective applied to children 7 years and younger.

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