Most snowmobile-related injuries occur in February

Youth are the most likely to sustain serious snowmobile-related injuries

January 25, 2006 – New data released today from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) show that hospitals treat the most snowmobile-related injuries in February. Snowmobile incidents remained the number-one cause of winter sports and recreation-related injuries treated in specialized trauma units in 2003-2004, accounting for 41% of these types of injuries as compared to snowboarding (20%), skiing (20%), hockey (9%), tobogganing (7%) and ice-skating (3%). Most snowmobile-related severe-injury admissions in 2003-2004 occurred in February (34%), followed by January (23%). A look at general hospital admissions across the country reveals much the same trend (32% in February and 18% in January), while visits to Ontario emergency departments for snowmobile-related injuries also peaked in February at 35%, followed by January at 28%.

�The report CIHI is releasing today pulls information from several different sources to give us a clear picture of snowmobiling injuries in Canada,� says Margaret Keresteci, Manager of Clinical Registries at CIHI. �Not only can we see when these injuries tend to happen, we can also see what age group is most at risk.�

The data show that young people are the most likely to sustain serious injuries in a snowmobile incident. An internationally recognized measure-the Injury Severity Score (ISS)-indicates that those under the age of 20 were treated for the most severe snowmobile-related injuries. Most of these patients sustain multiple injuries, with orthopedic injuries and head injuries the most frequently occurring traumas. In 2003�2004, those treated most often in general hospitals were between the ages of 20 and 39 years, while the most highly represented age group treated in Ontario emergency departments was 15- to 19-year-olds (16%), followed by 35- to 39-year-olds (13%).

In 2000-2001, there were 137 patients admitted to specialized trauma units with severe injuries sustained in snowmobiling incidents. The next three years saw fluctuations in the numbers-down to 88 in 2001-2002, up to 103 in 2002-2003 and most recently, 101 in 2003�2004. The average length of stay in a specialized trauma hospital for these injuries in 2003-2004 was almost 11 days, which is nearly double the length of stay for admissions with less severe injuries. Over three quarters (80%) of those sustaining these injuries were male. More than one in five of these patients required respiratory support with a ventilator.

While the most serious injuries are treated in specialized trauma units, general hospitals also admit many patients with injuries related to snowmobiling. There were 788 people admitted to hospitals after snowmobiling incidents in 2003-2004 and the average length of stay in hospital was six days. For these admissions, the most common injuries sustained were orthopedic (77%), followed by internal injuries (50%), and many patients were treated for multiple injuries.

Alcohol often a factor in snowmobiling injuries

In those cases where blood-alcohol concentration was recorded, it was a factor in almost half (49%) of the admissions for severe trauma in 2003-2004. This rate is almost double that recorded in 2000-2001 (26%). Of those with positive alcohol levels, 91% were driving the snowmobile. More than one in three (39%) of these individuals required mechanical ventilation and on average they stayed in hospital more than three times as long (33 days) as those who had no alcohol in their blood and were admitted to a specialized trauma unit with snowmobile-related injuries.

Drivers and passengers treated for different types of injuries

Snowmobile drivers tend to sustain the most serious injuries, as measured by the ISS. These injuries are generally the result of crushing and the majority of them involve the lower limbs or spine. Passengers are more likely to be thrown from the snowmobile, and tend to require treatment for orthopedic and head injuries. The data also show that the vast majority (87%) of injuries take place on private property, including trails, while 13% occur on roadways.

�The responsibility for ensuring an incident-free snowmobile experience ultimately rests on the shoulders of the individual rider,� says Louise Sherren from the Alberta Snowmobiling Association�s Sled Safe Program. �These new numbers simply reinforce the importance of taking every safety precaution possible when participating in winter sports.�

In Ontario alone, 1,728 people were seen in emergency departments in 2003�2004 because of injuries related to snowmobiling; this is an average of 16 patients per day during the winter months. The largest proportion of these incidents (26%) occurred between dusk and darkness, with most happening on the weekend (25% on Saturday and 24% on Friday).

Assessing the continuum and severity of injuries for the first time

This report draws information from three databases managed by CIHI-the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System, the National Trauma Registry Minimum Data Set and the National Trauma Registry Comprehensive Data Set-to assess the continuum and severity of snowmobile injuries. When data for this report were compiled, there was no comprehensive data set available from Quebec or Manitoba. Emergency-department snowmobiling statistics were only available in Ontario. Data on the number of deaths that happen at the scene of the incident are not included.

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collects and analyzes information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly available. Canada�s federal, provincial and territorial governments created CIHI as a not-for-profit, independent organization dedicated to forging a common approach to Canadian health information. CIHI�s goal: to provide timely, accurate and comparable information. CIHI�s data and reports inform health policies, support the effective delivery of health services and raise awareness among Canadians of the factors that contribute to good health.

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