Severe brachial plexus injury as a result of snowmobiling: a case series

J Trauma. 1998 Apr;44(4):726-30. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199804000-00030.


Background: Documented snowmobile-related fatalities and injuries have increased; however, reports of peripheral nerve injuries are rare.

Methods: This case series describes a cluster of severe disabling brachial plexus injuries incurred during snowmobiling. Medical record abstraction was used to identify relevant patient and event characteristics.

Results: All study patients were younger male snowmobile drivers. All incidents occurred at speeds in excess of 40 mph. Blood alcohol concentrations exceeded legal intoxication limits in most cases. Complete damage of the brachial plexus occurred in four of the six patients; severe disability occurred in all cases. Five of the six patients sustained associated orthopedic shoulder complex injuries.

Conclusion: This first report of severe peripheral nerve damage may signal the advent of more severe nonfatal snowmobile-related injuries that mimic motorcycle-related injuries, because the maximum attainable speeds of snowmobiles have increased. Surveillance of snowmobile-related injuries is warranted to identify the full spectrum of snowmobile injuries and recommend public safety measures.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Brachial Plexus / injuries*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota
  • Off-Road Motor Vehicles*
  • Risk Factors
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology