Objective.—Glacial sports continue to be a popular form of wilderness activity, but no published studies have commented on this type of sport or focused on the injury patterns of glacial accidents. The objectives of this study were to investigate the types and frequency of injuries associated with a glacial-crevasse or ice-field fall.
Methods.—The trauma registry data and radiology record system of a pediatric and adult level 1 trauma center were evaluated from January 1997 through August 2003. All admissions with injuries caused by a glacial-crevasse or ice-field fall were reviewed.
Results.—During the 5½-year period we identified 12 patients, of whom 9 (75%) were male. The average age was 30.2 years with an age range of 9 to 57 years. Six patients fell into glacial crevasses, and the other 6 slid down an ice field of a glacier. Leading diagnoses were head injury (44.6%), thorax injury (20.1%), and lower extremity injury (18.4%). Serious injuries were observed in 66.6% of the patients with a Glasgow Coma Scale of 3 to 8.
Conclusions.—A wide spectrum of injuries is associated with glacial accidents. They range from common extremity injuries with fracture or joint instability and peripheral frostbite to potentially life-threatening nonorthopedic trauma, which requires intensive clinical and radiological work-up. Injury prevention strategies should focus on wearing helmets to reduce head injuries and adequate clothing to forestall or prevent hypothermia, for these are the most severe and life-threatening injuries.