Background: The purpose of this study was to clarify the occurrence rate and characteristics of spinal injuries caused by snowboarding that were sustained at the Okumino skiing area in Gifu Prefecture, Japan, from 1988 to 2000.
Methods: This study was a retrospective review of 13,490 cases of snowboard- or ski-related injury treated at Sumi Memorial Hospital over this period.
Results: A total of 7,188 patients sustained snowboard-related injuries, and 238 of these had spinal injuries caused by snowboarding (3.3%), whereas 6,302 patients sustained ski-related injuries, and 86 of these had spinal injuries caused by skiing (1.4%). Although there were no significant differences in the difficulty of slope, location of vertebral fracture, or spinal cord injury between snowboarders and skiers, the incidence of transverse process fractures was significantly higher in snowboard-related than in skiing-related injury (p < 0.05). In addition, there was a significantly higher incidence of spinal injury among beginner snowboarders than among beginner skiers (p = 0.04). Furthermore, intermediate or expert snowboarders were more likely to be injured because of jumping than beginners (p < 0.001), whereas about 70% of spinal injuries caused by skiing resulted from a simple fall.
Conclusion: Spinal injuries sustained while snowboarding are increasing considerably in incidence and are characterized as complex injuries. We must educate young snowboarders of the risk of this sport, to prevent these serious injuries.