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Pediatric trauma in the Austrian Alps: the epidemiology of sport-related injuries in helicopter emergency medical service.

BACKGROUND/PURPOSE: We aimed to examine the epidemiological characteristics and injury patterns of pediatric trauma in helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) caused by sports/outdoor activities in alpine environment.

METHODS: This retrospective cohort study analyzed 912 primary HEMS missions for pediatric trauma (0-14 years of age) in Austrian Alps between 1 January 2006 and 30 June 2007. Children were stratified by age into toddlers (3-5 years), children in early (6-9 years), and late school age (10-14 years).

RESULTS: The majority of pediatric sports-related trauma in alpine environment was caused by skiing (82.1%; n=749). Pediatric patients were predominately in late school age and boys (72.8%, n=664 and 61.0%, n=556, respectively) and a minority (16.0%, n=146) was severely injured. Overall, fracture (47.0%, n=429), contusion (17.9%, n=163), and traumatic brain injury (17.0%, n=155) were the most common prehospital diagnoses. The most frequent pattern of injury was related to the head/face and spine (36.3%, n=331).

CONCLUSIONS: The knowledge about epidemiological characteristics of HEMS use for injured children in alpine environment may be essential for training requirements of HEMS crews and operational considerations of HEMS providers. The incidence of head and spinal injuries requires support for initiatives to promote helmet wear and appropriate risk behavior amongst skiers and snowboarders.

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