NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Snowboarders who use personal music players while boarding have fewer injuries but the injuries they do sustain tend to be more severe, reports a new study from Canada.
Typical risk factors for snowboard injuries include being at an intermediate skill level, snowboarding at night and using jump or half-pipe features at a terrain park, the authors of the study note.
Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injuries and is mandatory at many terrain parks. Some new helmets include built-in speakers, so the researchers wanted to see if listening to music might impact injury risk.
The analysis was part of a larger study looking at injuries among snowboarders using terrain parks, lead author Kelly Russell told Reuters Health in an email.
“We had anticipated that those who were listening to music on an iPod or other personal music player would be more likely to get injured because they would be less able to hear auditory cues from other skiers and snowboarders in the terrain park,” said Russell, from the Institute for Child Health in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “Or they may be more distracted by listening to music.”
The researchers tracked injuries that occurred during the winters of 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 at a terrain park at a snowboard resort in Alberta.
They compared 333 injured snowboarders to 1,261 snowboarders who were not injured. The snowboarders were in their late teens, on average.
Of the injured snowboarders, 208 went to one of two local emergency rooms and the rest were assessed by ski patrol only.
Contrary to the research team’s expectations, snowboarders who listened to music were less likely to be injured.
About 21 percent of injured snowboarders and 34 percent of non-injured snowboarders reported listening to music, according to findings published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
However, injured snowboarders who were listening to music were about twice as likely to go to the emergency room as injured snowboarders who were not listening to music, suggesting their injuries were more severe.
Listening to music was not related to a specific type of injury, Russell said.
Her team found that in general, snowboarders who listened to music were more likely to report themselves as being advanced or expert and had been snowboarding for more years than those who didn’t listen to music.
Snowboarders who listened to music were also more likely to have had a previous snowboarding injury.
The researchers note that some injured snowboarders probably were not treated by ski patrol or in the emergency room, and so were not included in the analysis. They also didn’t ask snowboarders about their music volume.
What’s more, the study relied on snowboarders to accurately report whether they were listening to music.
“I think the reporting is the biggest problem because these are kids, and I don't think most kids who hang out in the terrain park are real big on authority,” Dr. Marshall Emig told Reuters Health.
Emig specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. He was not involved in the study.
“I don't think they see an emergency room doctor the same way they see a ski patroller,” Emig explained. “They don't ever get in trouble with emergency room doctors, but they get in trouble with ski patrol all the time.”
Emig said he has a feeling that if a ski patroller asks snowboarders if they're listening to music, they're more likely to lie.
That fits in with the finding that ski patrol saw a lower proportion of injured snowboarders who reported listening to music.
Emig added that boarding while listening to music may be fine in a closed environment where there are no people around and no snowmobiles or other large moving objects.
“It’s probably not that big of a deal, other than hearing damage from listening to it too loud,” he said. “But if you're in a typical environment and the music is loud enough to where you can't hear what's going on around you, then logically there’s probably an increased risk of colliding with someone else or a moving object that would typically make noise that you could avoid.”
SOURCE: bit.ly/1qAAIZu British Journal of Sports Medicine, online July 8, 2014.