Head injuries in skiers and snowboarders in British Columbia

Can J Neurol Sci. 2001 Feb;28(1):42-6. doi: 10.1017/s0317167100052537.


Background: At the Vancouver General Hospital Neurosurgical Service there have been a significant number of seriously brain injured snowboarders, seemingly out of proportion to the number of skiers. The purpose of this study was to determine whether snowboarders suffered more serious head injuries than skiers in the Vancouver catchment area.

Methods: The British Columbia Trauma Registry was searched for patients incurring head injuries while skiing or snowboarding on British Columbia mountains during the period from January 1992 to December 1997. Patients were included if they were admitted to hospital and underwent neurosurgical consultation.

Results: A total of 40 skiers and 14 snowboarders met the above criteria. Of the skiers, 15% sustained a severe head injury by Glasgow Coma Score, another 30% sustaining moderate head injuries, while 29% of snowboarders had a severe injury and 36% a moderate injury. A concussion was present in 60% of the skiers and 21% of the snowboarders. Snowboarders suffered an intracranial hemorrhage in 71% of the cases compared to 28% of the skiers. A craniotomy was performed acutely in 10% of skiers and in 29% of snowboarders. Three deaths occurred as a direct result of head injury, one while snowboarding. All but one of the surviving skiers were able to return home, whereas four of 13 surviving snowboarders required additional inpatient rehabilitation or transfer to another acute hospital for ongoing care.

Conclusions: Snowboarders suffer more significant head injuries compared to skiers in this series and are much more likely than skiers to require an intracranial procedure. In our opinion, this indicates that additional safety measures, in particular the use of mandatory helmets, should be considered by ski areas and their patrons.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / pathology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / pathology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skiing / injuries*
  • Treatment Outcome