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Study estimates about 600 Wisconsin snowmobilers injured each year


Wisconsin law requires people to report any injuries, big or small, they get while snowmobiling to the DNR.

Over the last decade, anywhere from 50 to 150 snowmobile-related injuries get reported to the Wisconsin DNR each year.

New research published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal suggests those numbers are under-reported.

“It’s kind of to be expected. People are probably reluctant to report. Maybe they don’t know that they need to report,” said Epidemiologist Jennifer King, MPH with the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. She is one of the authors of the study.

King and her fellow researchers found medical reports from Marshfield’s hospitals in Park Falls, Ladysmith, and Marshfield that more than 1,000 people suffered snowmobile-related injuries during a five-year period.

She says when you take into account people that may be treated through other healthcare systems or never report their injury to anyone an the number of registered snowmobiles in the state, there are likely around 600 snowmobile-related injuries each year in Wisconsin.

“It was surprising to us how many were outpatients. Meaning they went to their family physician or urgent care rather than having to seek treatment at the emergency room. Those minor injuries are a lot more underreported. We hear a lot about the fatalities. But almost 75% of patients were seen by family physicians or outpatients,” said King.

Of those injuries about 1 in 3 had some kind of broken bone, usually somewhere in the arm.

King encourages people to report injuries to the DNR so that it can lead to better education and hopefully reduce those numbers.

“I think there’s risk inherent in a lot of sports and snowmobiling is no different. We just look at it in terms of looking at these numbers it’s 640 people in our state who could be burdened by an injury meaning that they’re missing time from work, they’re not able to engage in the hobbies they’d like to do or their quality of life decreases,” said King. “I think our message is really to enjoy your snowmobiling, but make sure that you ride in control, use good etiquette, use good judgment, and be aware of those kinds of changing terrain conditions.”

The study suspects reporting is down because people either don’t know they’re supposed to report or alcohol or illegal riding was involved, and people don’t want to get in trouble reporting.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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