Skiing and snowboarding injuries have increased with the popularity of these sports. Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are a rare but serious event, and a major cause of morbidity and mortality for skiers and snowboarders. The purpose of this study is to characterize the patterns of SCI in skiers and snowboarders.
The authors queried the Nationwide Inpatient Sample for the years 2000–2008 for all patients admitted with skiing or snowboarding as the mechanism of injury, yielding a total of 8634 patients. The injury patterns were characterized by the ICD-9 diagnostic and procedure codes. The codes were searched for those pertaining to vertebral and skull fracture; spinal cord, chest, abdominal, pelvic, and vessel injuries; and fractures and dislocations of the upper and lower extremity. Statistical analysis was performed with ANOVA and Student t-test.
Patients were predominantly male (71%) skiers (61%), with the average age of the skiers being older than that of snowboarders (39.5 vs 23.5 years). The average length of stay for patients suffering from spine trauma was 3.8 days and was increased to 8.9 days in those with SCI. Among hospitalized patients, SCI was seen in 0.98% of individuals and was equally likely to occur in snowboarders and skiers (1.07% vs 0.93%, p < 0.509). Cervical spine trauma was associated with the highest likelihood of SCI (19.6% vs. 10.9% of thoracic and 6% of lumbar injuries, p < 0.0001). Patients who were injured skiing were more likely to sustain a cervical spine injury, whereas those injured snowboarding had higher frequencies of injury to the lumbar spine. The most common injury seen in tandem with spine injury was closed head injury, and it was seen in 13.4% of patients. Conversely, a spine injury was seen in 12.9% of patients with a head injury. Isolated spine fractures were seen in 4.6% of patients.
Skiers and snowboarders evaluated at the hospital are equally likely to sustain spine injuries. Additionally, participants in both sports have an increased incidence of SCI with cervical spine trauma.