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Study highlights risk factors on the piste

Irresponsible behaviour, speeding, icy snow, poor visibility and no helmet all increase the chances of having an accident on the slopes, according to research.

Data from three Swiss hospitals reveal that many skiers using carving equipment overestimate their abilities and quickly exceed their limits.

More than 20 per cent of accident victims said they drank alcohol while practising winter sports and 16 per cent admitted taking soft drugs.

Snowboarders appear to be more safety conscious. They are more likely than skiers to wear helmets, back and wrist protection. Some 50 per cent of skiers said they wore a helmet.

The typical injuries sustained by the two groups also differ. The dorsal and cervical vertebrae are more exposed in skiers, while the lower backs of snowboarders are more vulnerable. Injuries to the extremities are also more common in skiers.

According to the authors of the study, 15 per cent of accidents involved collisions with objects or persons.

A total of 1,088 injured skiers and snowboarders were interviewed for the purposes of the study, along with 749 who had escaped injury in the 2007/8 winter season. The Frutigen, Interlaken and Bern Insel hospitals took part in the survey.

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