Klukowska-Rötzler J, Buerzle A, Exadaktylos AK, et al. Sex differences in sledging injuries: a retrospective 10-season study from a Swiss level 1 trauma centre.

The full article can be found here.


Tell us more about yourself and the author team.

I am a scientist with a PhD in life sciences. For almost 7 years, I have been involved in scientific projects at the Emergency Department of the University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland. My passion is mentoring master’s and doctoral students in medicine, teaching them to approach problems critically and search for reliable answers.


What is the story behind your study?

The story of this research may seem trivial. Every year, at the start of the winter season, patients are brought to our emergency department, mainly by helicopter, after sledging accidents in the neighbouring mountain region at an average altitude of around 3,000 metres. I also remember how reckless sledging was when I was a kid; everyone thought sledging was just like that. You have to learn to ski, but sledging? Nobody used to wear a helmet or good shoes or used to protect their eyes.

It wasn’t until I moved to Switzerland that I realised that sledging is a winter sport and that the mountain trails can be hazardous if you ignore weather warnings if you accidentally drive onto a ski slope, or if you go sledging after drinking alcohol, or if you think sledging at night is really fun.

We also have a lot of international tourists in Switzerland who are utterly untrained for our local seasonal mountain sports. When I look at patient data, I see that foreigners are often involved in severe accidents on toboggans, glaciers or mountain scooters.

All this has contributed to the desire to analyse 10 years of data to see what factors cause accidents, what the trends are and whether lessons can be learned to improve accident prevention.


In your own words, what did you find?

Our research has shown that the pattern of injury-related problems may differ according to gender, particularly in the young group of 16-25-year-olds. In addition, the head has a high risk of complications after an accident. We know from accidents in other sports that any injury to the head, including brain injury, can have long-term consequences. Most accidents in this group result in minor injuries. However, there are also cases of multiple injuries, so the risks of sledging should not be ignored.


What was the main challenge you faced in your study?

The biggest challenge for studies with retrospective data without prior questionnaires is to describe the cases and all the parameters of interest as accurately as possible based on existing hospital discharges. If we have too much missing data, we could run the risk of bias and draw the wrong conclusions. This was obviously not what we wanted.


If there is one take-home message from your study, what would that be?

The message from our research is clear: don’t overestimate sledging and think about the risks. Don’t ignore safety advice and information about the dangers of the slopes, and don’t forget to protect yourself, especially with a helmet. Don’t push your luck, especially if you’re a man; you have nothing to prove on the slope!

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