Spinal cord injury and snowboarding--the British Columbia experience

J Spinal Cord Med. 1999 Winter;22(4):246-51. doi: 10.1080/10790268.1999.11719577.


Snowboarding is an alpine sport growing in popularity, particularly among male youth. This study of 10 consecutive cases admitted to the Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre Acute Spinal Cord Injury Unit, over the 1997 to 1998 winter season, analyzes the epidemiology of snowboarding spinal injury. Information was collected retrospectively on the mechanism, location, and pattern of injury, and personal details of the individuals who suffered the injuries. The average age at time of injury was 22.4 years, with a range of 16 to 29. All but 1 of the cases were self-acknowledged expert-level snowboarders, with an average of 6.25 years experience. Nine of the injured were male. There was only 1 cervical injury, with the majority being low thoracolumbar, and 4 incidences of L-1 fracture. Compression and burst fracture were the predominant vertebral fracture patterns and there was a 50% incidence of significant neurologic injury and deficit. The most common mechanism of injury was axial loading following a failed jump or fall from a height, varying from 2 to 25 feet. The lack of associated injuries in 9 of the cases suggests a limited ability of the extremities to offset such falls. Contributing factors included the inherent riskiness of the sport, participant characteristics, lack of formal instruction, and self-constructed jumps. Poor weather conditions, unfamiliarity with a run, collisions, and consumption of alcohol also played lesser roles. The frequent association between spinal fracture and significant neurologic deficit in this group has not previously been reported in other studies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology*
  • British Columbia / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / epidemiology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / etiology*
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnosis
  • Spinal Fractures / epidemiology
  • Spinal Fractures / etiology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed