Risk factors and patterns of injury in snowmobile crashes

Gregory J. Beilman, Karen J. Brasel, Karl Dittrich, Susan Seatter, Donald M. Jacobs, J. Kevin Croston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective. - To evaluate risk factors for snowmobile injury and patterns of injury. Methods. - We performed a retrospective analysis of patients with snowmobile injury at three trauma centers. Data were collected from trauma databases and patient charts from January 1988 through April 1996; we obtained statistics from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for comparison purposes. Results. - There were 274 patients identified. The average age was 29 years (SD 12, range 1.677). The male:female ratio was 6.6:1. Helmets were used in 35%, not used in 10%, and not reported in 55%. Ethanol consumption was reported in 44% of patients. The average speed of the snowmobile at the time of the accident, when reported, was 47 mph/75 kph (n = 103, range 10-100 mph/16-166 kph). Of these patients, 26% (n = 27) reported a speed in excess of the legal limit (55 mph/88 kph). Accidents were more common in the afternoon and evening hours, and most accidents were caused by the snowmobile striking terrain or man-made objects. Mortality rate was 3.6% for this patient group (10 of 274). The average injury severity score (ISS) was 15 (SD 11). The average Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) was 14. The average number of patients who went to the intensive care unit and the total lengths of stay were 2 ± 5 and 8 ± 9 days, respectively. Neither GCS nor ISS correlated with reported speed. The frequencies of different types of injuries are as follows: fractures of upper and lower extremities (n = 184), serious head injury (n = 92), facial fractures or soft tissue injury to head or neck (n = 88), thoracic injury (n = 80), spine injuries (n = 50), intraabdominal injuries (n = 41), and pelvic fractures (n = 31). Conclusions. - Snowmobile injuries are related to ethanol use and the high speed attained by the newer generation of snowmobiles. Extremity fractures were a common component of snowmobile injury in this series, and rates of such injuries are similar to rates of these injuries in motorcycle accidents in states with helmet laws. Efforts at prevention of snowmobile injuries should be targeted at rider education and enforcement of alcohol restrictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-232
Number of pages7
JournalWilderness and Environmental Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


  • Blunt trauma
  • Extremity injury
  • Head injury
  • Pelvic fractures
  • Recreational injury
  • Snowmobile


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