Skiing and snowboarding are extremely popular in the USA. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) reports that while both skiing and snowboarding can be fun and safe activities for a wide variety of age groups, unfortunately, a large number of ski-related accidents and injuries do occur every year. The recent and tragic death of actress Natasha Richardson, who died after suffering a head injury after falling while skiing in Canada, has focused attention on the important issues of ski safety and obtaining medical attention after a ski accident.
In 2007, there were 101,111 hospital/emergency room visits for ski-related injuries in the United States. In the 2007-2008 ski season, there were 41 serious injuries in the US, which includes paraplegia, serious head injuries and other serious injuries, according to NSAA data. Of those seriously injured, 32 were skiers and nine were snowboarders. This equates to a serious injury rate of .68 per million ski/snowboard visits. The NSAA reports that there were 44 ski-related deaths and nine snowboarder deaths in the 2007-2008 season in the US. This equates to a fatality rate of .88 per million visits. The majority of these 53 deaths were males (38 male skiers and eight male snowboarders).
The NSAA estimates that collisions with other skiers or snowboarders account for about 6.4 percent of all ski accidents. The NSAA recommends several steps that skiers can take to avoid collisions, including:
- Staying in control/not skiing too fast
- Stopping in a safe place on the hill
- Looking uphill and yielding when beginning down the slope or merging
- Following posted warnings and signs
Under Colorado law there is a presumption that the uphill and overtaking skier is at fault for collision accidents because he or she is uphill, can see what or who is below and can try to avoid hitting a person or object. The Colorado Ski Safety Act outlines duties for skiers and operators of ski areas. Generally, skiers have a duty to maintain control and use caution when skiing. In addition, skiers, sledders and snowboarders have the duty to ski within their abilities and, if they are the uphill skier, the duty to avoid a collision. A violation of these duties constitutes negligence. Even young children can be negligent under the Act.
The NSAA has done studies about helmet usage and found that generally, advanced skiers are more likely to wear helmets than beginner skiers. In addition, children are more likely than adults to wear helmets. A 2007-2008 NSAA study found that 43 percent of skiers and snowboarders in the US wore helmets, which was a 40 percent increase over the previous year.
Wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding can significantly reduce the severity of head injuries sustained during a collision, fall or other accident. 14 percent of all skiing and snowboarding injuries are head injuries. Using helmets will reduce the risk of head injuries caused by skiing and snowboarding accidents.
If you collide with another skier or fall when snowboarding, it is extremely important to seek medical attention, even if you feel fine and don't exhibit any signs of injury. You may have a head injury or other internal injury and not realize it.