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Ski Injuries

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Source: Skiing Mag., December 2000

On any given day injuries significant enough to require a visit to a doctor occur to about one in every 400 skiers.
Improved bindings have reduced the rate of broken legs and ankles by nearly 90% since the late 60's, but ACL injuries have tripled since 1980.

Types of Injuries

Serious knee sprains
(97% involve the ACL)
All contusions * 16%
Less-serious knee sprains 10%
Lower leg
(fractures, sprains below knee)
Thumb 8%
Lacerations 6%
Trunk 4%
Broken collar bone 3%
Spine 3%
Muscle strains 2%
Concussions 1.5%
* Contusions are probably higher because many are not reported.

ACL - Anterior cruciate ligament
The ACL prevents your tibia (lower leg bone) from sliding forward relative to the femur (upper leg bone). The number of ACL injuries increased by a factor of three since 1980. Stiff high backed boots and better carving skis (greater torsional rigidity) are a significant factor in this increase. Analysis of injuries show many caused by landing on the back your skis after a jump of falling back during a turn which pushes the lower leg forward. Front upward release bindings introduced in the late 90's didn't help because the force required to tear the ACL were lower than those required to keep the binding from releasing during normal skiing.

Sources: Research at a Vermont Ski Area conducted by a group including Carl Ettlinger, president of Vermont Ski Safety, Robert Johnson MD, professor at U. of Vermont, and Jasper Shealy, professor of Industrial Engineering, at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
VERMONT Ski Safety Research | A plan to help reduce the risk of the most common skiing related injuries.
VERMONT Ski Safety Research Equipment Workshops Snowboarding VSR DVD Videos
Knee Binding - - Ski Injury

ACL higher in women - Jump Training
ACL Injuries in Women | claims Female athletes have four to 10 times more ACL injuries than male athletes have.
The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons agrees. See Why women have an increased risk of ACL injury doesn't agree. See ACL Injuries in High School Sports: No Gender Difference Found | MomsTeam
The reasons are not clear.
One theory is anatomical differences:
1. The notch in the femur thru which the ACL moves is narrower in women than in men.
2. A wider pelvis in women increases the angle whee the femur meets the tibia.
See ACL Injuries in Women
Another Skiing article suggests that jump training can reduce the risk of knee injuries.

A 1999 study by Timothy Hewett published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that women who jump trained for six weeks lowered the incidence of knee injury by a whopping 75 percent.
They call it jump training, but it's really about learning to land properly. "The trick is to jump and land without making noise," explains Kentucky Sports Medicine Clinic president Mary Lloyd Ireland, M.D., who has used jump training with female soccer and basketball players to significantly reduce ACL injury rates.

To practice jumping (and landing): Always keep the knees facing straight ahead, not knock-kneed. With knees and hips slightly bent, jump up. Then, as you land, bend at the knees again, giving slowly to reduce the impact. Keep your body in a "controlled position of hips over knees over feet," explains Ireland. Concentrate on making the landing soft and quiet. "Light as a feather," she says.

See jump training at: GirlsCanJump, Hoops U..

Have higher incidence of lower-leg injury (fractured tibia, etc.) but much lower incidence of ACL injury.

Binding Maintenance

Researchers believe that up to three quarters of the lower-leg injuries they see could have been prevented if the release systems were functioning properly.

No matter how recently you bought your last pair of bindings, your entire release system--boot, binding, and ski--should have a complete in-shop inspection before the start of each season and after every 15 to 30 days of use.
Source: VERMONT Ski Safety Research FAQ

See Binding Testing and safety


Helmets have become more popular since Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy were killed in skiing accidents involving head injuries.

90% of fatal injuries occur on intermediate slopes, where typical skiing speed is 25-40 MPH.
60% of fatal injuries involve the head.
Most of these seem to be the result of direct impacts not glancing blows.
Source: Jasper Shealy at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
A helmet will not be much protection in a direct blow for a skier who is going faster than 12-15 MPH. In the 1998-99 season (last with data) 35% of skiers who died were wearing helmets. They propose two explanations as to why this percentage was so high when only 5% of skiers were wearing helmets at the time: 1. People take more risks when they have protection (i.e. helmets) (e.g. cars with anti-lock are involved in more accidents than those without, needle pricks among medical practitioners became move common after they were required to wear gloves.) 2. High risk skiers are more likely to wear helmets.

Former pro racer, Kate McBride, who did not wear a helmet while recreational skiing, suffered partial paralysis and permanent blindness and deafness on the left side after being hit from behind by another skier. She is sure a helmet would have prevented this.

They make sense for racers and people who ski at high speeds where even a glancing blow can cause serious injury.

Other Links

Vermont Safety Research
Ski Patrol
Tips For KNEE-FRIENDLY Skiing at
Is skiing becoming more dangerous as claimed by the LA Times?
Knee Binding - - Ski Injury
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last updated 11 Mar 2015