Mechanisms and risk factors for snow sport injuries

In addition to several papers relating to the translation of safety advice (see my Injury Prevention blog of 5th December), the December, Volume 45(16), Injury Prevention and Health Promotion issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Injury Prevention’s sister journal, also included several papers from Norway about  snow-sport related injuries.

In the paper by Steenstrup et al., injury rates were compared during qualification runs and final runs in World Cup snowboard cross and ski cross events.  The injury data was collected through retrospective athlete interviews after the competitive seasons. Injury rates were significantly higher in finals runs than during the qualification runs, suggesting that the fierce level of competition may have lead to higher injury rates.  The exact reason for this are unknown but the authors postulated that this could be related to higher physical fatigue and stress levels in the finals athletes or that only the most skilled athletes made the finals and they attempted more difficult manoeuvres.

Another paper in the same journal issue by Bakken et al., used a systematic video analysis to review 19 specific injury incidents in World Cup Snowboard Cross .  The major cause of the injury events was found to be a technical error at take-off before a jump.  A similar video analysis of 20 events leading to anterior cruciate ligament (knee) injury in World Cup alpine skiers by Bere et al., also found skier technique to be one of the major contributors to injury risk.  Other factors were skier strategy and specific race environmental conditions.  Together, these papers show the power of conducting detailed incident reviews in identifying the specific mechanisms of injury and the range of factors involved in injury-incident causation.  Too often it is forgotten that reporting of injuries through standard injury surveillance systems based on treated injuries are unable to provide this level of detail, which is critical for identifying specific preventive solutions.  The sports injury field would certainly benefit from more in-depth studies exploring the exact mechanisms of injury and specifc causes of injury events.

Finally, it is not just the high performance sports athlete who is at risk of injury.   A large case control study across eight major Norwegian alpine reports, by Sulham, used 3,277 ski patrol reports to identify people injured whilst alpine skiing, telemark skiing or snowboarding.  Risk factor information was also collected on 2,992 uninjured people from the same resorts. Independent injury risk factors were being a snowboarder, being a novice at the chosen activity and being a child or adolescent.  The study provides no information about the mechanisms of the injury but these most “at-risk” groups could certainly be the focus of more specific research in the future, including incident video analysis studies.

Caroline Finch is an injury prevention researcher from the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP) within the Monash Injury Research Centre, Monash University, Australia.  She specialises in implementation and dissemination science applications for sports injury prevention.  She is the Senior Associate Editor for Implementation & Dissemination for the British Journal of Sports Medicine and a member of the Editorial Board of Injury Prevention; both journals are published by the BMJ Group.  Caroline can be followed on Twitter @CarolineFinch

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