Closed Reduction of Anterior Shoulder Dislocations Performed by Ski Patrollers in the Alpine Prehospital Environment: A Retrospective Review Demonstrating Efficacy in a Canadian Ski Resort

Wilderness Environ Med. 2021 Dec;32(4):441-449. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2021.07.007. Epub 2021 Oct 9.


Introduction: Shoulder dislocations are common ski hill injuries. Rapid reduction is known to improve outcomes; however, advanced providers are not always available to provide care to these patients. In 2017, nonmedical ski patrollers at Sunshine Village ski resort in Alberta, Canada, were trained to perform anterior shoulder dislocation (ASD) reductions. Program success was determined by a chart review after the 2020 ski season.

Methods: This study retrospectively reviewed data on patients who presented to Sunshine Village ski patrol with a suspected ASD and who met the study inclusion criteria from November 2017 through March 2020. Data were collected from ski patrol electronic patient care records regarding general demographics, reduction technique used, analgesia administration, and reduction success rates.

Results: Ninety-six cases were available for review after exclusions. Trained nonmedical ski patrollers successfully reduced 82 of these cases, resulting in an overall reduction success rate of 89%. Sixty-three (66%) of these patients had experienced first-time dislocations. Eighty-two (87%) patients were male, with a median age of 25 y. The most used technique was the Cunningham method (75%), and analgesia was administered to 70% of patients.

Conclusions: This retrospective study documents the results of a quality assurance review of the treatment of ASD at Sunshine Village ski resort. With a success rate of 89%, the evidence supports the conclusion that nonmedical ski patrollers can successfully perform ASD reductions. We believe training ski patrollers to reduce ASD improved patient care in our austere environment by providing early definitive treatment with a high success rate.

Keywords: Cunningham’s; FARES; austere; first responder; skiing/snowboarding; wilderness.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Shoulder Dislocation* / epidemiology
  • Shoulder Dislocation* / therapy
  • Skiing*