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Snow Sports People Urged To Take Care

Media Release

18 July, 2003

Snow sports people urged to take care

Skiers and snowboarders are being urged to care for themselves and others when they head to the slopes this season.

Seven percent of New Zealanders participate in snow sports and, including overseas visitors, there were more than 1.2 million visits to snow areas in 2002.

But many are injured, sometimes as a result of collisions with other skiers or snow boarders.

"Snow sports produce more than their fair share of serious injuries, often because participants haven't trained or prepared properly," says ACC Programme Manager Leonie McCormack.

According to ACC data, skiing and snow boarding combined are in the top five claim sports for new entitlement (ie moderate to serious) claims, with those claims costing on average $4713 in 2002 or 44 percent more than the equivalent average for rugby.

From July 2002 to March 2003, new claims to ACC cost $3.3 million.

To make the sport safer, ACC is working with the New Zealand Snow Sports Council and its member industry organisations to promote safe practices and codes of conduct.

A Snow Responsibility Code developed by the Ski Areas Association and ACC provides behaviour guidelines and is being displayed on snow fields, ski lifts and in snow sports industry outlets.

Snow Sports Council Executive Director Peter Sutton says skiers and snow boarders who breach the code could find themselves off the slopes for the remainder of the season, an outcome the council fully supports.

"The Snow Sports Council believes this united front towards injury reduction will pay off," he says.

But he says skiers and snow boarders also need to train and prepare for physically demanding sports that demand high standards of fitness.

"The body tires faster at higher altitudes, so you also need to take breaks or stop skiing when you tire to ensure you don't become a danger to yourself and others," he says.

"It's classic that at the end of a good day injury rates can rise because people just overstretch themselves."

ACC Injury Prevention Consultants are working with snow area operators to promote the Snow Responsibility Code and to encourage snowboarders to wear wrist guards.

While knees and lower limbs are more vulnerable for skiers, injuries to the upper limbs are more common among snow boarders.

Research at the Mount Hutt ski field in June 2000 found that snowboarders were twice as likely to require medical attention as skiers.

Nearly half the snowboarders had received no instruction, compared with 12 percent for skiers.

ACC’s Snow Sports Injury Prevention Programme

Wrist guards programme

Wrist injury is the most frequent injury associated with snowboarding. Learner and intermediate snowboarders are at greatest risk and promotion of the wearing of wrist guards by learner snowboarders is a key strategy in the ACC Snow Sports Injury Prevention programme.

Wrist guards were distributed to the industry in the 2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons (sourced by the NZ Snowsports Council and paid for by ACC). From 2003, ACC no longer funds the initiative but snow areas are putting in place their own wrist guard programmes. Material to promote the wearing of wrist guards was again designed and produced by ACC this season.

As a result of the wristguard initiative, there has been a reduction in the number of wrist fractures amongst snowboarders.

In the 2001 season there were eight injuries per 1000 snowboarders, down a third from the 12 in 1998. Statistics are not yet available for the 2002 season.

Learner snowboarders wearing wristguards increased from 57% in 2001 to 62% in 2002.

Participant Responsibility

The snow responsibility code will be enforced across all snow areas and irresponsible behaviour will not be tolerated.

The ACC Sport Claims Statistics can be viewed by year at the following Internet address:

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