Are More Injuries Caused by Skiing or Snowboarding in Utah?

With its towering mountains and jaw-dropping natural scenery, it’s no wonder why Utah is a favorite destination among skiers and snowboarders alike.  However, while both sports are hugely popular winter activities here in Utah, they also share the potential for serious or even fatal injuries.  At the same time, skiing and snowboarding also have some important differences, especially when it comes to injury patterns and risk of death, as Salt Lake City skiing accident lawyer Darwin Overson explains.

Snowboarding Injuries Becoming More Common, Skiing Injuries Declining

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It is fairly easy to find information about national trends in skiing and snowboarding accidents, but a 2009 study published in the Journal of Trauma, a peer-reviewed medical journal, gives unique insight into accidents that specifically occurred in Utah.  The study, aptly titled “An Analysis of Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries on Utah Slopes,” reviewed a total of 1,142 ski- and snowboard-related injuries that occurred during two seasons: the winter of 2001 to 2002, and the winter of 2005 to 2006.

Among the 1,142 injuries analyzed in the study, a total of 348 were caused by snowboarding (30.5%) while the remaining 794 were attributed to ski accidents (69.5%).  This fact alone sheds light on the frequency of injuries within each sport, suggesting that ski accidents are substantially more common in Utah, outnumbering snowboarding accidents by roughly two to one.

According to a 2012 report by the National Ski Areas Association, the number of ski-related injuries is decreasing, while the number of snowboard-related injuries is increasing.  To quote the report, “The rate of injury for snowboarding as of the 2000/01 season has increased to 6.97 from 3.37 per 1,000 visits from 10 years ago.”  The report also asserts that “The once-feared broken lower leg from skiing is now a thing of the past, declining more than 95% since the early 1970s.”

Together, these statements seem to suggest that skiing is becoming safer, while snowboarding is getting more dangerous with the passage of time.  Snowboarding also tends to be perceived as a younger or edgier sport than skiing, which doesn’t have quite the same reputation for being an “extreme” sport favored by adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers.

However, the data presented in the Trauma study paints a different picture.

Does Skiing or Snowboarding Cause More Deaths? What Injuries Are Most Common?

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According to the Trauma study, men were substantially more likely to be injured than women in both sports.  Men accounted for 70% of Utah ski accident victims, and an even greater portion of snowboarding injuries at nearly 88%.  Snowboarding injury victims also tended to be much younger: a mean of 23 years old for snowboarding, as opposed to 41 years old for skiing.

Injury patterns differed in a few significant ways.  While a slightly larger number of snowboarders sustained head injuries – 27.3%, compared to 20.4% of skiers – the head injuries that resulted from skiing were usually more serious.  According to the study, “[S]kiers tended to have slightly higher percentages of Glasgow Coma Scores in the moderate to severe range.”  (For reference, the Glasgow Coma Score or GCS is used by doctors to rate the severity of a brain injury based on eye movements, verbal responses, and motor responses.)

According to the study, skiers also accounted for far more brain injury-related deaths: “all fatalities secondary to head injury (8 of 9 fatalities).”  The one fatal snowboarding injury was not a head injury at all, but rather a collapsed lung, also known as a pneumothorax.  Moreover, skiers tended to need more time in the hospital when an injury did occur: an average of 3.4 days, compared to 2.4 days on average for Utah snowboarders.

Skiers were about twice as likely to suffer lower extremity injuries (51.3% as opposed to 26.2%), though snowboarders were twice as likely to have organ damage or injuries to the abdomen (22.4% as opposed to 11.2%).  And, while head injuries were generally more serious among skiers, snowboarders accounted for a higher number of spinal cord injury cases, which can lead to permanent paralysis or lifelong back pain.

Snowboarders also saw “considerable” numbers of organ injuries, specifically injuries to the liver (3.7%), spleen (11.2%), and kidneys (2.2%).

Contact a Salt Lake City Skiing Accident Lawyer to Review Your Claim

The statistics on skiing and snowboarding injuries in Utah reveal some surprising differences, and seem to imply that skiing is ultimately the more dangerous activity.  However, at the end of the day, both sports involve flying down steep mountainsides at high speeds – an activity which has the potential to end in disaster if a ski area’s employees act with negligence.

While Utah’s Inherent Risks of Skiing Act acknowledges the hazards of the sport, and accordingly limits ski resort liability in certain scenarios, there are cases where it is possible to recover compensation if you or a loved one has been injured while skiing or snowboarding in Utah.  You are urged to contact an experienced Salt Lake City snowboarding injury lawyer for more information on whether you could have a personal injury claim.

To discuss your claim in a free legal consultation, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143.  We handle personal injury cases, including wrongful death cases, in Salt Lake County, Wasatch County, Summit County, Tooele County, Morgan County, Rich County, and other locations throughout Utah.

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