Impact of alcohol consumption on winter sports-related injuries

Med Sci Law. 2010 Jul;50(3):122-5.

Gaudio RM, Barbieri S, Feltracco P, Spaziani F, Alberti M, Delantone M, Trevisiol P, Righini F, Talarico A, Sanchioni R, Spagna A, Pietrantonio V, Zilio G, Dalla Valle R, Vettore G, Montisci M,Bortoluzzi A, Sacco A, Ramacciato G, Pasetti A, Mognato E, Ferronato C, Costola A, Ori C, Avato FM.

Dip. Scienze Biomediche e Terapie Avanzate, Sezione di Medicina Legale, Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.


INTRODUCTION: This study was carried out to evaluate data about trauma-related winter sports, including risk factors such as high speed, gender, age, alcohol consumption, details about the accident and snow conditions.

METHODS: A retrospective review was conducted to determine the injury patterns and crash circumstances in holiday skiers and snowboarders. The data recorded were obtained from the database of the Pre-Hospital Emergency Registry of six skiing areas in the Dolomite mountains during the winter seasons November 2004-May 2009, injury data for major traumas from Ski Patrol Injury reports (helicopter, ambulance or ski slopes’ patrol reports), and intrahospital Emergency Department data. Alcohol concentration in blood was detected in 200 individuals suffering from major trauma.

RESULTS: A total of 4550 injured patients, predominantly male (69%), mean age 22 years (range 16-72), were included in the observational analysis. Knee, wrist and shoulder injuries were frequently associated with major thoracic, abdominal or head traumas (64% of cases). Suboptimal technical level, high speed, low concentration, snow or weather conditions, faulty equipment and protective devices were among the various causes of accidents. The analysis revealed that high alcohol blood concentration was present in 43% of 200 patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Even though the major causes of accidents were excessive speed, excessive fatigue, technical errors and bad weather conditions, alcohol abuse was often discovered. Random sampling and a non-systematic detection of alcohol blood levels likely led to an underestimation of alcohol consumption-related injuries. It is recommended that investigations into alcoholic intoxication in injured skiers should be carried out on a large scale.