Alpine skiing has been the dominant discipline in Norwegian ski resorts. However, during the last two decades Telemark skiing and in particular - snowboarding have gained in popularity. Also, new trends are seen within all three disciplines, which might result in changes in the injury panorama. New age groups are active, the equipment has undergone tremendous developments resulting in increased load on legs and knees, and off-piste skiing introducing new risk elements moments is becoming more popular.
The Norwegian Ski Lift Association has since 1996-97 established a central registration of injuries treated by the ski patrols in the major Norwegian ski resorts. The injury-rates during the previous two years was 1.3 injuries per 1000 skiers days (Ekeland & Rødven 2001). Of these, 66 % required physician or hospital treatment. The incidence of head injuries is high among alpine skiers and, in particular, snowboarders. Fukuda and co-workers (2001) found that the incidence of head injuries was higher than the incidence for other injuries, and that snowboarders suffered from head injuries 6.1 times more frequently than did skiers. They also found, that the incidence increases year by year in this group. The use of a protective helmet in the alpine disciplines is assumed to reduce the risk of serious head injuries, but this effect is not satisfactorily documented.
Larger multi-center studies have not been conducted in Norway to document the incidence and injury types during the last decade. We therefore aim to describe the injury panorama, but also to conduct a case-control study to explore the effect of potential risk factors for injury such as age, gender, equipment type, skill level, experience. In particular, we want to examine the effects of helmet use on the rate of head injury.
Methods: Injuries were recorded by the ski patrols of nine major Norwegian ski resorts during the winter season of 2002. A total of 3256 injuries were registered. These injuries account for about 60 % of the total in Norwegian ski resorts. Personal information and information on risk factors such as skill level, equipment, use of helmet, and the current incident has been recorded. Hospitalized skiers with head injuries will be contacted and interviewed for further details. The ultimate diagnose will be registered. As a control group, 3000 skiers and snowboarders have been interviewed in the bottom main ski lift in the same ski resorts. The questions asked were the same as for the injured skiers. By comparing the risk of injury between the injured and the control group the effect of each of the risk factors can be estimated.