Skip to main content

Assessment of Common Injuries and Safety Preparedness of Snowmobilers in the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota

1 August 2005


Context: Snowmobiling is a rapidly growing wintertime sport across the United States. Its popularity has grown by leaps and bounds in the last twenty years. With the increase of interest in this winter sport, has come an increase in injuries and fatalities. Some of the leading causes of accidents include excessive speed, alcohol, inexperience, and poor judgment. Most often injuries sustained while snowmobiling involve the musculoskeletal system but can involve any organ system.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to use a survey to assess the demographics, safety precautions, and common injuries of snowmobilers over the age of eighteen in the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota. This study assessed what types of first-aid items were carried and if it was adequate for common snowmobile-related injuries. It also looked into how prepared snowmobilers felt for common injuries they may encounter while snowmobiling. Assessment was done of modifiable known risk factors for snowmobile-related injury and mortality, such as, helmet use and alcohol consumption.

Design: Snowmobilers were surveyed during the month of January 2006. · Only snowmobilers over the age of eighteen were surveyed. Most surveys were completed in person at Trailshead Lodge (Lead, SD) a popular starting and rest area near a trail system entrance. Surveys and survey receptacles were also available at sites that were likely to be visited by snowmobilers, such as, rental businesses and picked up at the end of the month. These surveys were completed by snowmobilers riding on the 350 mile trail system within the 1.2 million acres of the Black Hills National Forest.

Results: Of the total 305 snowmobilers surveyed, 89% carried some type of first-aid or winter survival item but only 16.7% carried and adequate or better first-aid kit recommended for snowmobilers. There were 46.2% that reported an injury while snowmobiling, with headache, blister, and frostbite the most common conditions. A total of 71 % had some type of medical training.

Conclusion: This study evaluated the safety preparedness and common injuries sustained by snowmobilers in the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota. Of the total respondents, 11% were not carrying any first aid or winter survival items. There were 83.3% that did not carry an adequate first-aid kit recommended for snowmobilers. Health care providers, snowmobile clubs, law enforcement officials, departments of natural resources, parks, and recreation, and government agencies all play a crucial role in educating snowmobile enthusiasts about risks and important safety precautions. The risks associated with injury and mortality can be modified by following safe snowmobiling practices. Exercising good judgment and avoiding unnecessary risk should be encouraged in the health care setting and out on the trails.


Files are restricted to Pacific University. Sign in to view.