Snow sports are associated with injury; however the risk is much lower that people would believe, it is 0.5%.
Injury rates are based on how many skier days: for every 1000 people skiing or snowboarding on any particular day between 2 and 4 will sustain injuries, for snowboarding it is higher 3 to 5.
For an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), the ratio is 1 in 2000.
There is 1 death per 1.5million ski days
These are due to medical conditions or trauma. Traumatic deaths occur as a consequence of an avalanche or as a result of high speed impact with a stationery object, are it a tree, rock, pylon or another skier /snowboarder. Head injuries are often associated with these.
Another form of death is the "Non-Avalanche Related Snow Immersion Death " : these relate to a fall into pitted area under a snow -laden tree - as the victim tries to extricate themselves , more snow caves in top of them and they die from either asphyxiation or hypothermia . Off-piste skiers and snowboarders are the most at risk here.
About one third of all alpine ski injuries affect the knee joint: the medial collateral ligament, ACL, the meniscus (cartilage) or any combination of the three. ACL rates have been static for some time now and as a result there has been much research towards its prevention. Other areas are the thumb, the shoulder joint and head.
There are three main accepted mechanisms responsible for injury to the ACL while skiing
- Phantom Foot - the tail of the ski acts as a lever when a skier falls off balance to the rear
- Boot induced -after landing off balance from a jump , the boot pushes on the calf leading to injury
- Hit from Behind - an impact on the rear of the calf does the same.
Avoiding High Risk ACL Behaviour
- Don't fully straighten your legs when you fall. Keep your knees flexed.
- Don't try to get up until you've stopped sliding. When you're down - stay down.
- Don't land on your hand. Keep your arms up and forward.
- Don't jump unless you know where and how to land. Land on both skis and keep your knees flexed.
Snowboarding head injuries increased from 1000 in 1993 to 5200
in 1997 but what needs to be taken into account here is that snowboarding
became more and more popular during these times.
The stats are that between 1991/2 and 1998/9 there were 285 reported deaths from a total of 426.2million ski and snowboard days (i.e.: 1 death per 1.49million visits to the ski area. The death rate for snowboarding is 0.46 per visits - 34% lower than for skiing which is 0.70.
Biomechanics show that in order to protect the head against direct impact blow at 30mph, with current available materials, a helmet would need to be at least 18cm thick, 50cm wide and weigh 5kg, that's heavy. Most intermediate skiers travel at between 28 to 34 mph.
Head injuries and Helmets
10 to 15% of injuries are head injuries: they are usually minor though, mainly concussion so should they are worn? Well any degree of risk should be reduced. Helmet sales in the US are increasing year on year. The standards for Europe and the US are different. In Europe the Central European Standard EN1077and UNI EN 812 and in the US the American Snell RS-98, the American standard being more stringent, Snell performs a series of impact tests that require a higher level of impact absorption. The Snell has to withstand 30% more impact force than the Euro Standard. If you are going to buy a Helmet: buy one that meets the high standard.
About 25-40% of all slope users are snowboarders. It has a different
injury profile to skiing.
Upper limb injuries predominate usually as a result of falls onto an outstretched hand. There are a lot of wrist injuries, especially among beginners: most snowboarders do not wear wrist guards. Serious spine injuries are also becoming more prevalent.
Wrist injuries and Wrist Guards
Snowboarders incur different injuries to skiers, both in terms of the areas that get injured and the type of injuries themselves. Compared to skiers, snowboarders are far more likely to sustain injuries to the upper limb and less likely to the lower limb. The amount of fractures is twice as high amongst snowboarders to skiers -25% to 12.5%. The reason for this is explained by the design of the equipment and the way it is used.
The instinctive reaction of a snowboarder is to outstretch a hand in order to break the fall. A result of this is the wrist is the single commonest injury area for the snowboarder.
The severity of the broken wrist is determined by whether the bones have been pushed out of position, whether the break goes through the line of the wrist joint or whether the wrist has been broken into different fragments amid whether the bones are sticking out of the skin. Displacement of the bone fragments is the most common problem, because of the considerable forces involved.
25% of all snowboard injuries affect the wrist, the shoulder being the next most common site of injury - 12%.
Current stats show that 15% of all snowboarders wear wrist guards.
Is there any evidence that wrist guards reduce the chances of breaking your wrist?
Yes undoubtedly, a study in Colorado showed that those wearing wrist guards were half as likely to sustain wrist injuries to those that weren't. Another study in Norway came to the same conclusion .Burton Tactic Wrist Guards
Wrist Guards can be bought on their own or integrated into a glove system, unfortunately nearly 25% of snowboarders are unaware of wrist guards. There is a myth that wrist guards merely transfer the force further up the arm and break the bones somewhere else, this is not true
Guards under Gloves
Demon Wrist Guards
Pro-Tec IPS Wrist Guards
Red impact Guard
Guards over Gloves
The No-Gomer -highly recommended
Integrated glove/guard system
Level HalfPipe GTX Biomex gloves
Level Fly GTX Biomex Gloves
This was developed by French doctors which helps carving turns and protecting the wrist at the same time