Volume 5, Issue 4 (April 2008)
Effect of Age and Experience on Lower Leg Fractures in Alpine Sports
The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that age and experience level significantly affect injury rates, and lower leg fracture injury rates in particular, in a sufficiently large Alpine sports population. An epidemiology study of skiing, snowboarding, and skiboarding injuries at three large ski resorts covered by the Médecins de Montagne epidemiology network in France was conducted for data collected during the 1998–2004 seasons. Medical injury diagnosis data at the mountain clinic were compiled along with demographic information about the injured skier and their equipment. The population at risk for each sport was determined by collecting control data in parking lot surveys and at the base of lifts using previously published methodologies. There was no significant change in overall injury rates over the seven years for any of the Alpine sports studied. Lower leg fractures and shoulder injuries dominate skiboard injuries, wrist fractures and shoulder injuries dominate snowboard injuries, and knee injuries continue to dominate skiing injuries. The overall rate of lower leg fractures in skiboarding was three to four times higher than in skiing. However, skiers less than 16 years old had approximately the same rate of lower leg fractures as skiboarders of similar age. Overall, beginners had a significantly higher injury rate for all major injury groups. Lower leg fractures occurred in beginner skiers at approximately the same rate as beginner skiboarders. Knee sprains occur much less frequently in skiboarders than skiers. These results demonstrate that while overall injury rates for a specific injury may be significantly different among Alpine sports, controlling for age and ability has a significant impact and must be accounted for when comparing injury rates.