The rush to get outside and enjoy the early snow this winter in B.C. is likely to keep emergency rooms busy, says Dr. David Evans, a trauma surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital.
"As soon as it snows, we see a spike in emergency room visits related to winter sports injuries," says Evan, who is also the medical director for Trauma Services B.C.
And it's skiers and snowboarders — not hockey players and snowmobilers — who account for most of the emergency room visits, he notes.
Last winter, 455 people ended up in the province's emergency rooms with injuries caused by skiing or snowboarding, he said.
That's nearly five times more than the 94 people hospitalized playing hockey last winter, the figures show.
And when a day on the slopes ends in the emergency room, more than half of the cases are major injuries such as extremity fractures, brain trauma, internal organ injury or spinal cord injuries.
"Many of these injuries are serious and require long recoveries. Some result in permanent disability. Fortunately, most are preventable – often simply by wearing a helmet, and avoiding excessive speed or reckless behaviour," he said.
Perhaps not surprisingly, male skiers account for twice as many emergency room visits as females, while male snowboarders account for four times more trips to the ER than females.
Most deadly winter sport
As for snowmobilers, while only 80 were hospitalized with injuries last winter, most of those injuries were serious, said Evans.
In fact, according to a 2013 study by the BC Coroners Service snowmobilers accounted for half of the 136 people who died while taking part in a winter sport in B.C. between 2007 to 2013.
That study also found 51 per cent of winter sport deaths involved avalanches and 88 per cent were males.
It should be noted that since the figures don't include the number of people who take part in each winter sport, they thus don't indicate which sports are most risky for individual participants.