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Children’s snow sport injuries vary according to age

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All winter sports carry an injury risk, and a new study shows that the most common injuries in children differ depending on their age.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that, among those participating in sledding, downhill skiing and snowboarding, younger children are more likely to suffer head and facial injuries, while older kids and teens sustain more internal abdominal traumas.

According to data from the nationwide Kids Inpatient Database, of 845 children admitted to hospitals for snow sport injuries between 2009 and 2012, elementary school age children were more likely than those in middle and high school to suffer skull or facial fractures. Tweens and teens were more likely to experience intra-abdominal injuries. More than half of the children required major surgery.

Injuries seen in young skiers included lower extremity fractures (28.7%), intracranial injury (22.7%), splenic injury (15.6%), upper extremity fracture (15.5%) and skull fracture (9.1%).

“For younger patients, many head injuries are likely from tobogganing, head first or not, without a helmet,” explained co-author Dr Jeremy Aidlen, associate professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery. “For teenagers having more abdominal injuries, we speculate that perhaps there’s some more risk-taking behaviour, whether on moguls or ski jumps, that cause them to crash into objects with the torso rather than head-first. Even if they’re wearing helmets, they’re injuring their bellies because that’s what’s not protected.”

“We would like to see a greater use of helmets and more awareness that they should be required for younger kids,” said study co-author and paediatric surgery research fellow Dr Robert McLoughlin. “Older kids need to be educated on the risks of some of the activities they are doing, and that even if they are wearing helmets, they are not invincible.”

The findings were presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.