Skiing and snowboarding lead to twice as many hospitalizations as hockey

January 17, 2012—While hockey hits have been getting a lot of attention in Canada, skiing and snowboarding injuries are more than twice as common, according to new data released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). In 2010–2011, there were 2,329 hospital admissions for a skiing or snowboarding fall or crash, compared with 1,114 hockey-related hospitalizations. Other seasonal activities also led to hospital stays: ice skating (889); snowmobiling (1,126); and tobogganing (171).

“There is a lot to enjoy about Canadian winters, but safety and precautions are important across all age groups,” explains Greg Webster, Director of Primary Health Care Information and Clinical Registries at CIHI. “Every year, more than 5,000 Canadians get seriously injured—requiring at least one night’s hospital stay—due to a winter sport or recreational activity. These numbers do not include visits that involve only the emergency department (ED) or a doctor’s office, or deaths at the scene, so the total number of injuries is actually much higher.”

In terms of total ED visits for these seasonal activities, Ontario (where complete data is available) alone saw a total of 45,270 in 2010–2011. That averages out to 285 ED visits for every day of winter.

Most often hurt while playing: boys age 10 to 19

Half of all hospitalizations during 2010–2011 for hockey injuries (542 out of 1,114) and close to one-third of all those for skiing and snowboarding (689 out of 2,329) were for people age 10 to 19. When looking at all winter activities in this age group, boys accounted for 81% of those hurt.

Children younger than 10 were hospitalized most often for injuries related to skiing and snowboarding (87 cases) and tobogganing (56 cases).

Of the activities studied, snowmobiling was the only one not over-represented by younger Canadians in terms of hospitalizations: two-thirds (752 out of 1,126) of serious snowmobile injuries occurred in adults age 20 to 49.

Past five years see little change in number of serious injuries

The total number of hospitalizations related to seasonal activities has not changed much since 2006–2007. As well, in 2010–2011, 415 Canadians were hospitalized for head injuries related to a winter sport or recreational activity; this number has remained relatively stable since 2006–2007.

Last year, nearly one-third (135) of these serious head injuries occurred while skiing or snowboarding. Over the past five years, a total of 759 head injury hospitalizations were related to ski hill activities in Canada.

“When it comes to winter, it’s important that Canadians get outside to play and enjoy our slopes,” says Dr. Natalie Yanchar, Associate Professor of Surgery and Emergency Medicine at Dalhousie University, and Medical Director at IWK Trauma Care in Halifax. “Wearing a helmet is important for all ages to prevent a fun day in the snow from ending in tragedy—without question, it reduces the risk of serious head injuries in case of a crash.”

Older Canadians most often hurt by falls on ice

For all winter-related causes of serious injuries (excluding motor vehicle collisions), falls on ice were by far the most common cause: they led to 7,138 hospital admissions in 2010–2011, more than for all winter sports and recreational activities combined. About half of these cases occurred in people age 60 and older and about 70% were among those 50 and older.

More than half (56%) of those hospitalized for falls on ice were women.

Tables and figures

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About CIHI

Established in 1994, CIHI is an independent, not-for-profit corporation that provides essential information on Canada’s health system and the health of Canadians. Funded by federal, provincial and territorial governments, CIHI is guided by a Board of Directors made up of health leaders across the country. Our vision is to improve Canada’s health system and the well-being of Canadians by being a leading source of unbiased, credible and comparable information that will enable health leaders to make better-informed decisions.