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Competitive Snow Sports Injuries Greater than First Thought.


Every orthopaedic specialist knows that the mix of snow, humans and sport is a recipe for a wide range of injuries. Yet whilst a great deal of statistical research is available for snow sports-related injuries at the general participation level, little is known about the injuries sustained by the professional elite involved at the highest levels, or what might be done in terms of preventative measures.

The efforts of the FIS and the FIS Injury Surveillance System, which was established in late 2006 thanks to a grant from DJO is, however, improving our knowledge as two initial papers presented at the XVIII Congress of The International Society for Skiing Safety showed.

The first paper from the FIS ISS focused on Injuries Sustained by World Cup Ski and Snowboard Athletes1  which was gathered over two seasons. They found that injury frequency levels were alarmingly high: 710 injuries were recorded from 2121 athletes with 71% (507) severe enough to lead to time loss from the schedule. Almost 40% of those (199) resulted in an absence of more than 28 days.

This very high figure equated to 11.3 injuries per 100 athletes per season (Alpine); 15.1 per 100 in Freestyle and 13.8 per 100 in Snowboard. The same team of researchers later presented a paper entitled Are Knees at Risk in Ski Jumping2.  Surprisingly, little research has been conducted historically into this subject and the researchers interviewed 146 athletes (76M – 70F) regarding serious injuries  (defined as an injury resulting in time-loss of more than 28 days)sustained in their previous four seasons. Sixteen percent of the female athletes reported a serious knee injury during competition or training; among the men this was 8%. However, as the interviews were only conducted with active athletes, they concluded that these numbers underestimated the true incidence of serious knee injuries. They also recommended that preventative training programmes similar to those used by handball and football players should be undertaken by female ski jumpers.

In another interesting paper on wrist fractures3, researchers from The College of Medicine at Vermont University, Vermont Ski Safety Equipment Inc and Rochester Institute of Technology conducted research on a broader participant demographic. Based on 34 seasons of data, they discovered (based on the mean days between injuries) that snowboarders were 17 times more likely to sustain a wrist injury than a skier, although skiers’


wrist injuries were proportionally more severe and that sex and skill levels were risk factors in snowboarding – but not in skiing - and that older participants sustained more severe injury patterns.


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1 Injuries to World Cup Ski and Snowboard Athletes – Data from Two World Cup Seasons: Florenes TW, Nordsletten L, Heir S, Bahr R
2 Are Knees at Risk in Ski Jumping? Florenes TW, Nordsletten L, Heir S, Bahr R
3 Wrist Fractures in Alpine Winter Sports: An Analysis of 34 Seasons: Patton CM, Shafritz AB, Johnson RJ, Ettlinger CF, Beynnon BD, Shealy JE



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