Severe injuries associated with skiing and snowboarding: A national trauma data bank study

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2017 Apr;82(4):781-786. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000001358.


Background: Injuries after skiing and snowboarding accidents lead to an estimated 7,000 hospital admissions annually and present a significant burden to the health care system. The epidemiology, injury patterns, hospital resource utilization, and outcomes associated with these severe injuries need further characterization.

Methods: The National Trauma Data Bank was queried for the period 2007 to 2014 for admissions with Injury Severity Score > 15 and International Classification of Diseases Codes-9th Revision codes 885.3 (fall from skis, n = 1,353) and 885.4 (fall from snowboard, n = 1,216). Demographics, emergency department data, diagnosis and procedure codes, and outcomes were abstracted from the database.

Results: Severe (Injury Severity Score > 15) ski-associated and snowboard-associated injuries differed with respect to age distribution (median age, 38; interquartile range, 19-59 for skiers and median age, 20; interquartile range, 16-25 for snowboarders; p < 0.001) and sex (78.9% and 86.4% males, respectively, p < 0.001). Traumatic brain injury was common for both sports (56.8% of skiers vs. 46.6% of snowboarders, p < 0.001). Injuries to the spine (28.9%), chest (37.6%), and abdomen (35.0%) were also common. Eighty percent of patients used emergency medical services (50% ambulance, 30% helicopter) with a median emergency medical services transport time of 84 minutes. 50.8% of patients required interhospital transport. 43.2% of injuries required surgical intervention (21.3% orthopedic, 12.5% neurosurgical, 10.5% thoracic, 7.8% abdominal). Median hospital length of stay was 5.0 days. 60.0% of patients required intensive care unit admission with median intensive care unit length of stay 3.0 days. Overall mortality was 4.0% for skiers and 1.9% for snowboarders.

Conclusion: Severe injuries after ski and snowboard accidents are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Differences in injury patterns, risk factors for severe injury, and resource utilization require further study. Increased resource allocation to alpine trauma systems is warranted.

Level of evidence: Prognostic/epidemiologic, level III.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / mortality
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skiing / injuries*
  • United States / epidemiology