Snowboarders are more reckless

Trauma surgeon Kees Bartlema at Leiden University Medical Centre to study winter-sports accidents.

How many people per year have accidents on winter-sports holidays?

“We don’t actually know. In my experience, both on the slopes and at work, there seems to be an increase. January and February are the peak times for snow-sports-related accidents. 

“Isn’t it a strange way of spending your holidays? I’m surprised that people drive for miles to spend a week exercising even though they normally don’t; in fact, they do sports you can’t even do in the Netherlands.
“I go skiing too and I’ve fallen hard on occasion but never really injured myself. But I still think it’s weird. I wonder how many people will remain unhurt. I have a feeling – and so does the Eurocross emergency call centre – that the number of accidents is on the rise, but at the moment there’s nothing to substantiate it.”

What exactly are you going to investigate?

“How often such accidents occur and how serious they are. We’ll make an inventory of what happened, in which conditions and what the consequences of those injuries are.”

Let’s say I’m going snowboarding next week and I break my pelvis. Should I send you an email?
“There’s a 25-per cent chance we’d hear about it. The Netherlands has four emergency call centres for winter-sports accidents. Eurocross, the largest of them, is the only one to take part in this study. We hope that we, with Eurocross’ help, can extrapolate those figures to all Dutch winter-sports holidaymakers.”

You think the number of accidents is rising. Why?

“More people go snowboarding and they often have slightly less control than skiers; because they’re younger, they also behave, on average, slightly more recklessly. In addition to the snowboarders, a lot more people head for the snow without any practice; they not only injure themselves – they bang into other people too.

“Nowadays, people ski faster than they used to and I think that’s causing more severe injuries. If we find an actual rise, I’d look into those aspects for explanations.”

What should I do to prepare myself?

“Make sure you’re very fit, especially if you don’t normally exercise very much. And if you can’t ski or ride a snowboard well, take lessons and make sure you know how to behave on the slopes.” 

Bart Braun

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