Equipment Became Better in Backcountry Skiing—Did Severity of Injuries Decrease? An Analysis from the Swiss Alps
Swiss Registries and Data Linkage - Swiss RDL, University of Bern, 3012 Berne, Switzerland
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(3), 901; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030901
Received: 3 January 2020 / Revised: 28 January 2020 / Accepted: 30 January 2020 / Published: 1 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mountain Sports Activities: Injuries and Prevention)
Background: Large technical developments in avalanche transceivers as well as in ski–shoe-binding units should make backcountry skiing a safer sport and as a consequence, yield to a decrease in the number and severity of mountain emergency events. Methods: From 2009–2018, a total of 3044 mountain emergencies (953 females and 2091 males) were identified from the SAC (Swiss Alpine Club) central registry while backcountry skiing. These were classified descriptively by cause, whereby the severity of the mountain emergency was quantified with a NACA-Score (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Score). Results: A total of 1357 falls (44.6%), 558 emergencies caused by avalanches (18.3%), 408 cases of blocking (13.4%), 214 cases of illnesses (7.0%), 202 cases of losing way (6.6%), 138 cases of a crevasse accident (4.5%), and material failure in 30 cases (1%) were registered. For the remaining 137 cases (4.5%), no classification or rare forms were detected. No substantial sex differences were found in severity of injury, however looking at the two endpoints of the observed time frame, a significant increase in NACA-Score from 2009 to 2018 (2.1 ± 1.8 up to 2.6 ± 2.1, p < 0.01) was detected. Conclusions: The increase in the severity of mountain emergencies while backcountry skiing in the last decade might be due to the fact that too many inexperienced absolve backcountry tours. The tendency might be promoted by the improved material in the way that it seems easier to absolve a tour while underestimating potential hazards.