Objectives: While some studies have compared the bodily injuries suffered by snowboarders, alpine skiers, and skiers who only ski short distances (short skiers), few studies have examined the head injuries that can occur during these activities. Therefore, we investigated the differences between the head injuries caused by these three activities.
Methods: The 3,581 individuals who suffered head injuries at ski resorts during the 13 winter seasons from 2000 ⁄ 2001 to 2012 ⁄ 2013 and visited our hospital were included in this study. We investigated their age, sex, skill level, neurological findings, imaging findings, surgical treatment, and outcomes as well the circumstances of their injuries, what head protection they were wearing, and the locations of their head injuries using information obtained from questionnaires and the patients’ medical records. During the statistical analyses, the χ2 test was used, and the level of significance was set at p<0.05.
Results: There were 2,674 subjects (74.7%) in the snowboarding group, 835 subjects (23.3%) in the alpine skiing group, and 72 subjects (2.0%) in short skiing group. The causes of the patients injuries were categorized into falling on a slope; falling during jumps; colliding with snowboarders, skiers, or obstacles; and unknown. The snowboarders’ injuries were mainly caused by falling on a slope (45.9%), falling during jumps (33.7%), and collisions (17.1%). On the other hand, the alpine skiers’ injuries were mainly caused by falling on a slope (48.7%), collisions (35.8%), and falling during jumps (9.3%), whereas those of the short skiers were mainly caused by collisions (40.3%), falling during jumps (31.9%), and falling on a slope (25.0%). Occipital head injuries were common among all subjects; however, they were significantly more common among the snowboarders and short skiers than among the alpine skiers. About half of the snowboarders and short skiers suffered disturbances or loss of memory or consciousness. On the other hand, less than 30% of the alpine skiers exhibited neurological symptoms. In this study, 52 snowboarders, 9 alpine skiers, and one short skier suffered acute subdural hematomas.
Conclusions: The snowboarders and short skiers fell during jumps, suffered occipital injuries, and experienced memory and consciousness disturbances more often than the alpine skiers. On the other hand, the alpine skiers were more expert and fell on steep slopes more frequently. The snowboarders suffered acute subdural hematomas most often, and it is considered that getting snowboarders to wear a helmet and teaching them to correct their falls before a head injury occurs could help to prevent acute subdural hematomas.