Skiing and Snowboarding Head Injuries Increase, Despite Helmet Usage

By AlpineZone News |
Oct 08 2012 - 02:11 PM

WASHINGTON – Injuries and fatalities from skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling have not declined, despite measures aimed at making these popular winter sports safer, according to two studies being presented this week at Scientific Assembly, the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians, in Denver, Colorado (“Skiing and Snowboarding-related Head Injuries in the United States: A Retrospective Analysis from 2004-2010” and “Snowmobile Fatality Rates Have Not Decreased Despite Public Health Interventions”). The studies were presented at Research Forum.

“Skiing and snowboarding-related head injuries requiring emergency care have increased at a higher rate than all other ski and snowboard injuries, despite an increase in helmet use,” said Mark Christensen, D.O., of Western Michigan University, a study author. “Males, snowboarders and teenagers are most likely to be injured.”

In 2004, there were an estimated 9,308 head injuries sustained while skiing or snowboarding that required emergency medical care. By 2010, that estimate had increased to 14,947 head injuries. The number of helmet users increased by over 20 percent between 2004 and 2010.

A related study by a different set of researchers found that despite public health interventions aimed at snowmobile riders – such as night-time speed limits and zero alcohol campaigns – the overall fatality rate from snowmobile accidents did not change significantly over 12 years. Fatality rates decreased in Wisconsin after 2006, after a change to the night-time speed limit, but fatality rates remained stable in New York and Minnesota. Rates of alcohol use were much higher in fatal crashes than in non-fatal crashes and rates of use do not appear to be decreasing.

“Fatality rates per crash are actually increasing in Michigan and Minnesota,” said Nathanial Hibbs, DO, of Michigan State University in Lansing. “However, the drop in fatality rates in Wisconsin since it enacted a nighttime speed limit law argues for nighttime speed limit laws being considered in states that do not yet have them.”

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.