Acute Vertebral Fractures in Skiing and Snowboarding: A 20-Year Sex-Specific Analysis of National Injury Data

William H. Huffman, Lori Jia, Kevin Pirruccio, Xinning Li, Andrew C. Hecht, Robert L. Parisien

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Background: The epidemiology of acute vertebral fractures (AVFs) sustained while skiing and snowboarding remains poorly defined in the United States. Hypothesis: It was hypothesized that there would be no significant differences across sex and a greater number of AVFs in younger age groups associated with skiing and snowboarding. Study Design: Descriptive epidemiological study. Methods: The authors utilized the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to identify patients who were reported in emergency departments in the United States from 2000 to 2019. All patients were noted to have sustained AVFs during skiing or snowboarding. National estimates and demographic analysis were performed. Results: A total of 466 AVFs were identified, or roughly 23.3 AVFs per year. Compared with women, men accounted for the majority of AVFs sustained in both skiing and snowboarding: 67.8% (95% CI, 62.6%-73.0%) during skiing and 82.1% (95% CI, 76.3%-87.8%) during snowboarding. This represented a significantly larger percentage of AVFs while snowboarding compared with skiing (P =.002). Women accounted for 32.2% (95% CI, 27.0%-37.4%) of AVFs while skiing and 17.9% (95% CI, 12.2%-23.7%) while snowboarding, which indicated a significantly larger percentage of AVFs sustained during skiing compared with snowboarding (P =.002). Snowboarders were more likely than skiers to sustain an AVF in the region of the coccyx (21.5% [95% CI, 14.3%-28.7%] vs 11.5% [95% CI, 3.5%-16.9%], respectively; P =.003) and as a result of a fall at ground level (69.2% [95% CI, 62.1%-76.4%] vs 52.8% [95% CI, 43.2%-62.4%], respectively; P =.009). A significant decrease in the number of snowboarding-related AVFs was identified over the 20-year study period: 899 in 2000-2003 versus 283 in 2016-2019 (P <.01). The change in skiing-related AVFs over the study period was not statistically significant (694 vs 462; P =.5). Conclusion: This national study of AVFs sustained while skiing and snowboarding identified critical sex- and age-specific differences in the population at risk, anatomic location of injury, and mechanism of injury. The national data generated from this study over a 20-year period may be utilized to better inform public health injury awareness and prevention initiatives in the rapidly growing sports of skiing and snowboarding.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • skiing
  • snowboarding
  • sports medicine
  • trauma
  • vertebral fracture


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