Terrain parks are designed to have various features that allow skiers and snowboarders to jump and/or perform tricks. Many of the features resemble those found in skateboarding parks. Common features include jibs, jumps and vertical pipes. Jibs are fixtures (usually made of steel or plastic) that can be ridden with skis or a snowboard, parallel or perpendicular to the ground, or while spinning around or jumping off. These features resemble stair rails, benches, or tables. Jumps, which range from 5–90 meters and vary from resort to resort, are usually constructed of snow or snow with a dirt base. Various tricks such as grabs, twists, or spins may be performed while airborne after a jump. Vertical pipes resemble a trough with vertical lips to the side, which terrain park users can use to launch themselves into the air. Terrain park areas are separated from the regular resort slopes, and can be subdivided into large, medium, and small features based on the height of jumps and pipes, and complexity of jibs.
As exemplified in this study, terrain parks attract a unique demographic of winter resort patrons. Patients presenting for treatment were predominately younger males injured after a jump or fall from height. Terrain parks are set up with advanced features that encourage jumps, twists, and other aerial movements, thus it is not surprising that the patrons injured are more likely to rate themselves as experts, and injure themselves in jumping/falling type mechanisms. This is similar to previous studies, which have suggested that intermediate and expert snowboarders tend to injure themselves more with jumping type activities, and are more likely to try aerial-type maneuvers.1,4
The majority of patients injured in our study were snowboarders, which likely contributed to the higher proportion of upper extremity injuries in this group. In the general winter resort population, the injury rate for upper extremity injuries has been reported to be approximately two times greater in snowboarders than in skiers.4,5
This includes wrist injuries4,6–9
and other upper extremity injuries.2,4,5,10–13
Likely mechanisms include the increased frequency of backward (wrist injuries) and forward falls (shoulder injuries) associated with snowboarding. Our study did not assess the use of protective equipment, such as wrist guards; however their use has been shown to decrease the incidence of wrist injuries and may be especially useful in novice snowboarders.8,14–17
Several authors have also reported an increased incidence of spine and head injuries in snowboarders when compared to skiers,7,8,18–20
particularly if jumping is involved.1,2,19,21–26
In one study, 70% of injuries in intermediate and expert snowboarders are caused by jumping, a common activity in terrain parks.1
Although the majority of users in this study were injured while jumping, the rate of head and spinal injuries did not differ from patients injured on non-terrain park slopes. A larger study may be able to better elucidate whether true differences do exist with regard to these specific injury types in terrain park activities.
A recent study examined terrain park injuries reported to ski patrol personnel.2
This study suggested that users had higher ambulance evacuation rates than non-terrain park slope users. In addition, the study found that skiers had a higher proportion of severe head and neck injuries, while snowboarders had a higher risk of severe extremity injuries (as compared to the skiers and boarders injured on non-terrain slopes).
Although injury rates for terrain and non-terrain slopes were not assessed in this study, it appears that those patients who presented to a hospital for care after an injury sustained in a terrain park did not have a higher rate of ambulance transport, or sustain more severe injuries when compared to patients injured on non-terrain park slopes. ISS were slightly higher in patients injured on terrain park slopes; however, this did not reach statistical significance. Both groups had similar rates of hospital admission, ICU admissions, total hospital LOS, and the majority of injured patients were discharged home in both groups.
Our study suggests that although terrain parks attract a certain demographic of winter resort enthusiasts who are performing more advanced maneuvers, the overall severity of injuries sustained in terrain parks does not differ significantly from injuries sustained on non-terrain park slopes.