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January 28, 2008

Some Statistics on Ski Injuries

Some new figures on ski injuries:

Is the rate of skiing injuries increasing?

Thanks to better equipment, the overall rate of reported skiing injuries has declined by 50 percent over the past 40 years, according to Shealy.

Is the rate of snowboard injuries increasing?

Yes, nearly doubling, according to research, which dates to the 2000/01 season. The rate was nearly 7 injuries per 1,000 visits compared to 3.37 in 1990/91.

What are some trends regarding injuries?

Broken lower legs, once one of the most common injuries to skiers, has decreased by 95 percent from 35 years ago. And after years of an increase in the number of knee injuries, especially ACL, the International Society for Skiing Safety Congress reported that since 2003 knee injuries have been on the decline. The reason for the 35 percent decline in serious knee injuries is believed to be due to the increased use of shorter skis. However, the number of mid-shaft tibia fractures has in-creased over the past 20 years after dramatically declining through the mid-1980s. The reason for the increase in tibia fractures appears to be a function of ski-binding-boot systems. Researchers believe that those numbers could be reduced if more people had their skies inspected by qualified ski technicians.

Where do most fatal acci-dents happen?

Well-groomed blue cruiser trails where the average speed of skiers is 25 to 40 mph...

Recently a man reportedly died at Steamboat after fal-ling into a tree well. How common is this?

About 5 percent of all skiing/snowboarding fatalities are caused by people falling into tree wells, which are created where the boughs of low-hanging conifers create wells below them, mostly in un-groomed areas on the edges of groomed trails. The snow is like quicksand, the more the victim struggles, the deeper they bury themselves and usually suffocate, especially if falling in head first, which usually is the case. Colorado accounts for 17 percent of these kinds of fatalities in North America, trailing British Columbia (24 percent) and California (19 percent). Over the past seven years, snowboarders were twice as likely as skiers to be involved in these accidents.

When do most of the tree well accidents happen?

During or just after big snowfalls when skiers and snowboarders venture off of the groomed trails in search of powder. December and January have more of the docu-mented cases due to the loose and unconsolidated snowpack conditions generally associated with early season.

The article also has some interesting statistics on helmet use.

Have the increased use of helmets decreased the number of serious and fatal head injuries?

Helmet use been estimated to be about 40 percent of users and has been increasing about 5 percent annually over the past several years. While the use of helmets reduces the number of head injuries by 30 percent to 50 percent, that decrease is generally limited to the less serious injuries. However, according to Shealy’s research, there has been no significant reduction in fatalities due to head injury over the past nine seasons despite the increase in helmet use. Still, non-helmet users were greater than two times more likely to have died of head injuries among accidents in which helmet use was known. Just more than one-third of the deaths involved those wearing a helmet, with about half of them also suffering fatal head injuries.

Why no reduction in fatalities?

There are several reasons. Helmets are designed to protect your head up to 12 mph, however, most collisions with trees involve the skier/boarder traveling at least twice to three times that speed. Studies have shown that those wearing helmets ski faster than those without helmets. For non-helmeted skiers, 23 percent of all potentially serious head injuries are more serious than a mild concussion. For helmeted skiers, 67 percent of their potentially serious head injuries are more severe than a mild concussion. Another reason is that two-third of fatalities by those who wear helmets are due to multiple causes or injuries. For those who die while wearing a helmet, only about one-third have a head injury as the first cause of death. Basically, the severity of the incident simply overwhelms the ability of the helmet to prevent death.

Always wear a helmet and always ski in control. Know your abilities. The most dangerous place on the mountain is the average blue cruiser. Dumbass kids racing out of control. You don't have to be the idiot to get hit by one. I have hurt my knee twice (thankfully not an ACL) getting hit by someone uphill from me not being able to avoid me because they are out of control. And my brain bucket has saved my dome several times. Helmets are just good things to have, but they work best when you are in control.

Posted by Justin at January 28, 2008 10:42 AM


I knew the helmets were rated for a non-huge number in MPH, but 12? Interesting...

Posted by: Oft-piste at January 29, 2008 04:53 PM

The real issue here is the speed that people are flying down the hill. The inherent risk - per resort owners - is part of the sport -- but the sport is changing - there are people skiing at 40-45mph -- which will cause death -- what are they doing - nothing--

the grooming and the technology of the equipment - has not been addressed by the ski resort owners -- all 6 owners --- 6 companies control 50% of skier traffic --

Posted by: billy ryder at February 26, 2008 09:03 AM