Winter sports are increasingly popular and practiced by several hundred million people worldwide [1
]. Three winter sport disciplines that are conducted on ski slopes are alpine skiing (AS), snowboarding (SB), and ski touring (ST). ST is traditionally done in free ski terrain, but the number of practitioners on ski slopes has increased in recent years [4
]. ST uses a special boot fixing-system with artificial skins to walk up a mountain. Before skiing down on the slopes or in free ski terrain, the skin has to be removed and the boot fixing system has to be changed to a fixed mode. Out of the three disciplines, AS might be considered as the best studied discipline, where various potential health benefits were reported [5
]. However, winter sports also bear an inherent risk for injuries. For AS, the injury risk is low when using a frequency (days of practice) to injury relation (approximately 1.3 injuries per 1000 skier days in Austria [6
]). However, the absolute number of injuries per year remains high because of the large population at risk. The possibility of severe injury or death in the case of unexpected circumstances led to the classification high-risk sport for downhill winter sports in several studies, although this has been discussed controversially [7
]. The injury rates in SB have decreased over time, however, they are still higher compared to skiers [9
]. In slope ST, where usually a lower distance is skied compared to AS or SB [4
], the data show an injury risk of 2.5 injuries per 1000 h of ST [13
Risk-taking behavior is an important aspect of the research related to injury prevention [14
]. For slope sports, several risk-taking behaviors, like speeding or participating under the influence of alcohol, have been specified [15
]. On the other hand, it has to be stated that precautionary behavior, like wearing safety equipment, has considerably increased during the last decades [6
]. The helmet usage rate in AS increased over the past years from 60% in 2010 [18
], 65% in 2012 [19
], 81/83% in 2015 [1
], and 96% in 2019 [17
]. Sensation seeking (SS) is one of the most studied underlying personality traits as it may be an important predictor when focusing on risk-taking behavior [20
]. SS is linked to seeking out higher risk and it seems likely that aspects of SS would be related to risk-taking considering the excitement and risks of downhill sports [22
]. SS is a “trait defined by the seeking of varied, novel, complex, and intense sensations and experiences, and the willingness to take physical, social, legal, and financial risk for the sake of such experience” [23
]. SS is commonly assessed by a standardized self-report questionnaire allowing the interpretation of the four dimensions: thrill and adventure seeking, experience seeking, disinhibition, and boredom susceptibility [24
In a previous study [26
], the authors compared the above mentioned different winter sport disciplines on ski slopes (AS, SB, ST) with regard to SS based on the following arguments: Firstly, previous research recommended the SS scale as a useful tool to assess and interpret the individual differences in personality between people performing their sports with different levels of risk [22
]. Secondly, SS seemed to be an important driver for risk behavior in skiers and SB [21
]. Thirdly, different injury rates between different slope sports had not resulted in investigating these sports separately in personality-related research fields [27
], even though there is evidence that motivational as well as personality-related aspects are involved when selecting a sport [20
]. Lastly, the information on differences on injury-related behavioral variables between AS, SB, and ST might help to design injury prevention programs specifically for the disciplines.
Our previous analysis [26
] has resulted in interesting differences in SS between AS, SB, and ST by a general comparison following an online survey using all datasets. In detail, the authors found higher SS in SB for the SS total score and all SS subscales compared to AS [26
]. Similarly, higher scores were found in SB in the SS total score and in disinhibition compared to ST previously [26
]. However, our previous analysis reported in [26
] might have been limited by (non-significant) differences in the age class and sex of the practitioners. Comparing SB to ST, the percentage of males was 55% and 41%, respectively [26
]. Comparing SB to AS, the percentage of 15–24 years was 56% and 50%, respectively [26
]. However, both sex and age are discussed as strong factors for the differences in SS with men and adolescent people reporting the highest SS scores [31
]. Consequently, even small, non-significant differences might have influenced our previous analysis. Furthermore, non-Bonferroni corrected post-hoc comparisons were used in the previous analysis, possibly resulting in a higher Type I error rate [33
Therefore, the aims of the present study were to investigate possible differences in injury-related behavioral variables between alpine skiers, snowboarders and ski tourers and to critically re-assess whether the previously obtained results could withstand the use of a more rigid approach based on a matched design. Additionally, and as an enlarged analysis, the participants with and without injuries requiring medical care on ski slopes in the past were compared on possible differences in injury-related behavioral variables.
In total, n = 414 participants were included in the matched analysis with n = 138 per each discipline (AS, SB, and ST). The sex distribution was 41% female and 59% male. The age distribution was 50% aged 15 to 24 years and 50% aged 25 to 34 years. Winter sport ability was 2% beginners, 12% intermediates, 65% advanced, and 20% experts (1% missing due to rounding). Winter sport ability for the SB participant, where exact winter sport ability matching was not possible, was advanced instead of the beginner.
3.1. Differences between Alpine Skiers, Snowboarders and Ski Tourers
Risk-taking behavior and helmet use were similar across AS, SB, and ST (Table 1
). The percentages of those who reported alcohol consumption in the past five skiing days differed significantly across the disciplines. A post-hoc analysis showed that the percentage of those who reported no alcohol consumption in the past five skiing days was significantly lower in SB compared to AS, p
= 0.014. The comparison between both SB versus ST and AS versus ST did not reach significance, p
There was a significant difference in the total score of SS across the disciplines (Table 2
). SB reported a higher SS total score compared to AS, p
= 0.006. The comparison between both SB versus ST and AS versus ST did not reach significance, p
> 0.090. Out of the four subscales, the differences in disinhibition and experience seeking emerged as significant. The post-hoc analyses indicated a significant difference in disinhibition only, where SB reported higher values compared to both AS, p
= 0.011, and ST, p
< 0.001. The comparison between AS versus ST did not reach significance, p
= 0.353. No significant differences between the disciplines were detected in the dimensions of thrill and adventure seeking as well as boredom susceptibility.
The sensitivity analyses for pairwise comparisons revealed a minimal effect size of Cohens d = 0.28 to be detected as significant in the matched post-hoc analysis. For the unmatched analysis, the sensitivity analyses for pairwise comparisons were calculated separately for each discipline. For SB versus ST/AS versus ST/SB versus AS, respectively, a minimal Cohens d = 0.29/0.27/0.19, respectively, was revealed to be detected as significant.
3.2. Comparison of Winter Sport Participants with and without Treated Injuries
Out of all participants, 96 participants (23%) reported to have suffered at least once from injuries requiring medical care on ski slopes in the past (Table 3
). Significantly higher SS scores in participants with treated injuries were found for all SS variables, except thrill and adventure seeking compared to participants without treated injuries. A significantly higher percentage in participants with treated injuries reported to be more-risky compared to participants without treated injuries. The proportion of SB was significantly higher in participants with treated injuries compared to participants without treated injuries.
The predominant injury location was the lower leg for both ST and AS and the hand for SB (Table 4
). The hip and upper leg was the least frequently mentioned injury location in all disciplines.