Who is at risk in the French mountains? Profiles of the accident victims in outdoor sports and mountain recreation
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The risk of both severe and frequent injury associated with active pursuits in mountain areas is acknowledged. This phenomenon is all the most relevant to investigate in France that there is a growing enthusiasm for outdoor sports and recreation. This paper focuses on the social-demographic and sporting profiles of accident victims. Our intent is to better understand who is specifically at risk, while practicing mountain recreation, in the French mountains. Such identification doubtlessly constitutes an important asset in order to enhance prevention. Three critical activities are notably tackled, among some others: hiking, a widespread activity that exposes many practitioners to hazardous settings; mountaineering and ski touring, supposedly entailing the most severe injuries. In order to align the information collected, then provide estimations based on the reasoned crossing of these secondary data, we consulted and summarised all the databases that we knew of on the French territory: rescue team intervention reports, aggregated statistics from the sports ministry, sporting federation accident declarations, avalanche experts statistics, mountain guides union accident/incident reports, healthcare facilities admissions, etc. Only the sources considered to be the most reliable and representative were used, owing to the number of cases processed, the exhaustive nature of data collection, or the level of information detail available. Our method also included consultation of all the parties playing an active role in prevention, training and mountain rescue, thus ensuring a participative, co-constructive approach to the study with the people that have the best knowledge of victims’ profiles. Around fifty such parties were interviewed on the methods implemented, the benefits and limits of current data, and the main expectations in terms of accidentology progress, thus further enhancing the credibility of the study proposed in this paper. Our results show that the parent population profiles (in terms of age, gender, place of residence, etc.), weighted by the level of exposure (frequency of participation, level of engagement, etc.) appears to have an impact on the accident victim profiles. There is certainly a very marked gender bias and a serious age impact to be taken into account, as well as the influence of the level of experience, which counter certain preconceived ideas and which, at the very least, go against instinct. However, aside from a probable over-exposure of experienced or expert participants, much remains to be explained concerning the accident mechanisms and circumstances involved. At this stage, we regret the analytic deficiencies induced by a lack of knowledge concerning the parent populations in many cases, which makes interpretation difficult.
KeywordsMountain sports Outdoor recreation Accident victims profile
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This research was supported by the Petzl Foundation.
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