Purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the causes, clinical course, and financial impact of snow-related sport injuries in children.
Methods: Reports of snow-related injuries (skiing, toboganning, snowboarding) occurring in 147 consecutive children (< or =16 years of age) admitted from 1991 through 1997 were collected prospectively and assessed retrospectively. During the last year of the study, outpatients treated and released from the emergency department (1996 through 1997) were examined in parallel (n = 101). Total financial impact was determined from the aggregate hospital, rehabilitation, and societal costs.
Results: One hundred thirty-seven patients (M:F, 2:1; mean age, 13 yrs) were admitted (toboggan [n = 74], ski [n = 59], snowboard [n = 16]), of which 66% occurred at licensed resorts, and 33% at parks or private property. There was one death. Although the pattern of injury was similar in all groups (head greater than long bone greater than intraabdominal injuries), mean injury severity scores (ISS) were significantly higher for snowboard injuries. Seventy-five percent of patients required at least one operation. Postdischarge, 15% of patients required institutional care. Of the 101 ambulatory patients (ski [n = 48], toboggan [n = 35], snowboard [n = 18]), 65% were injured at licensed resorts, and 56% required outpatient rehabilitation or home care. The per-patient costs were: hospital treatment, $27,936; outpatient services, $15,243; lost parental income, $1,500.
Conclusions: Snow sport injuries, particularly snowboarding, cause severe childhood morbidity. Helmet usage, training requirements, and regulation of licensed resorts may reduce the morbidity and staggering costs.