Is skiing the world's most dangerous sport?

  • Living
  • Tuesday, 31 Dec 2013

Data on the frequency and type of injury reveals which sports carry the greatest risks.

MICHAEL Schumacher, seven-time winner of Formula One is in a critical condition after suffering a serious head injury while skiing in the Meribel resort in France. Several research studies put the news in context by comparing injury rates among various sports.

Is skiing more dangerous than snowboarding?

The popularity of snowboarding has rapidly grown over the past two decades despite (or some may argue because of) concerns about the sport being a dangerous one. A four-year study by doctors in California sought to compare injuries sustained by skiers and snowboarders to determine which winter sport had the highest risk.

Their results show the importance of experience; 49% of injured snowboarders were beginners compared to 18% of skiers. Wrist and ankle injuries are far more likely among snowboarders while skiers are more likely to damage their knees during a fall.

Overall though, snowboarding carries a higher risk of injury and, according to Professor Michael Henrie at the University of Utah, has become more dangerous – Henrie found that there were 6.97 snowboarding injuries per 1,000 visits in 2001, compared to 3.37 per 1,000 ten years earlier.

0.9 per 1,000

In a separate study of skiers in Norway, a medical officer documented 883 injuries over 980,000 days – amounting to an injury rate of around 0.9 per 1,000 days. Around one in six of all injuries were to the head, although that figure rose to one in four of all injuries that were the result of a collision.


Two out of three skiers and snowboarders who had been in a collision but hadn’t suffered an injury said that they always wore helmets. Despite accounting for a relatively small fraction of all injuries, head injuries are particularly serious given that they are the most frequent cause of death and severe disability.

Other sports

Although their data doesn’t take into account the popularity of different sports, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons monitors head injuries treated in US hospital emergency rooms, particularly those that affect the brain.

Around 10.8 million US citizens skied during the 2010/11 season, compared to around 18.3 million who played football and 46.8 million who cycled. When those participation rates are considered, the risks of sustaining a head injury are similar across all three sports. – Guardian News & Media

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