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Fall-related accidents among hikers in the Austrian Alps: a 9-year retrospective study
  1. Martin Faulhaber1,
  2. Elena Pocecco1,
  3. Martin Niedermeier1,
  4. Gerhard Ruedl1,
  5. Dagmar Walter2,
  6. Regina Sterr2,
  7. Hans Ebner3,
  8. Wolfgang Schobersberger4,5,
  9. Martin Burtscher1
  1. 1 Department of Sport Science, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  2. 2 Austrian Board of Alpine Safety, Innsbruck, Austria
  3. 3 Austrian Alpine Police/Ministry of the Interior, Vienna, Austria
  4. 4 Institute for Sports Medicine, Alpine Medicine and Health Tourism (ISAG), Tirol Kliniken GmbH, Innsbruck, Austria
  5. 5 Institute of Sports Medicine, Health Tourism and Leisure Sciences, Private University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology (UMIT), Hall, Austria
  1. Correspondence to Dr Martin Faulhaber; Martin.faulhaber{at}


Objective To analyse the circumstances of fatal and non-fatal mountain hiking accidents caused by falls.

Methods The study was designed as a retrospective analysis. Mountain hiking accidents caused by falls were documented during a 9-year period (2006–2014). After screening of all data for potential exclusion criteria the final sample size of 5368 accidents and 5665 victims was included into the analyses. Main outcome measures were details about accidents, victims, type of trail and surface.

Results The annual number of accidents showed a continuous increase from 467 in 2006 to 700 in 2014. In total, 5.8% of all victims died during the 9-year period. 75.3% of the hikers fell during descent and 80.9% of the victims had their accident on a marked hiking trail or small path. The sex ratio for non-fatal accidents was 55% female and 45% male; for fatal accidents the female-to-male ratio was 28%:72%. Mean age of all victims was 52.5±17.5 years and victims of fatalities were about 5 years older compared with victims of non-fatal accidents (57.5±16.5 vs 52.2±17.5 years, P<0.01).

Conclusion Descent is the most risky part for accidents caused by falls during mountain hiking. Male hikers are at greater risk for fatalities independent of age and this is associated with accidents occurring in pathless terrain. The death rate from falls was 6%. We recommend a critical self-assessment of the individual capabilities and mountain hiking skills and adequate planning of the hiking tours for mountain hikers.

  • epidemiology
  • prevention
  • mountain

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  • Contributors MF designed the study, conducted data analysis and interpretation, and wrote the draft of the manuscript. EP and MN contributed to data analysis and drafting of the manuscript. GR and WS contributed to interpretation of the data and review of the manuscript. DW and RS contributed to data acquisition and data transfer. MB contributed to designing the study, interpretation of the data and review of the manuscript. MF is the guarantor.

  • Funding MF has received research grants from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

  • Competing interests MF has received research grants from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

  • Patient consent Detail has been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.

  • Ethics approval Board for Ethical Questions in Science of the University of Innsbruck, Austria (Certificate No 36/2015).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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