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Fewer injuries among World Cup Alpine skiers after new ski regulations


A new study from Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, recently published in British Journal of Sports Medicine, revealed a reduced risk of injury among top level alpine skiers after the implementation of new ski regulations.

It was until recently unknown what effect the new ski equipment had on the rate and pattern of injuries. 

Since the 2006/07 season, the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center (OSTRC) in collaboration with the international ski federation (FIS) has registered injuries among all World Cup (WC) alpine skiers.

Data from previous seasons showed that the injury rate among alpine skiers was alarmingly high. One of three skiers receives an injury every season, and over 30% of the injuries are severe, leading to prolonged absence from training and competitions. These results lead to an increased injury awareness by FIS and the introduction of new rules for safety equipment. Because of this,FIS introduced new ski equipment regulations prior to the 2012/13 season.

Consequences of equipment regulations

Master student Bjørnar Haaland and his team just published a large cohort study with the aim of comparing injury data among the WC alpine skiers from the seasons before (2006/07) and after (2012/15) the implementation of the new ski regulations.

Through 9 seasons (2006-20015), retrospective interviews were performed with all WC alpine skiers at the end of each season. All acute injuries during the competitive season that needed medical attention were registered.

A reduction in number of injuries

In total, 2402 athlete interviews were performed and 794 injuries were registered. The absolute injury incidence – new injuries during a season – was significantly lower in the 3 seasons after the new ski regulations compared with the 6 seasons before.     

There were 26.8 injuries compared to 36.2 injuries per 100 athletes per season.

By comparing the seasons before and after among male and female alpine skiers, there was a reduction in injury rate among male skiers, but not in female skiers, per 100 athletes per season and per 1000 runs.

No reduction in knee injuries, but fewer crashes.

As previously known, the injury pattern in skiers wa also in this study dominated by knee injuries (39%), followed by hand-finger-thumb injuries (10%), lower back-pelvis (10%), lower leg-achilles (9%) and head-face injuries (9%).

There was no reduction in knee injuries or injuries to the lower extremities in total after the new ski regulations, but there was a reduction in injuries to the upper body. There was also a reduction in the number of athletes who did not finish (DNF), i.e. the number of athletes who did not complete their run. 

Previous studies have found that injuries to the head and upper extremities occur during falls and crashes. According to the research team, fewer upper body injuries in the current project were likely caused by less falls after the new ski regulations.

More seasons are needed

- Our ability to draw conclusions on the effects of the equipment change in subgroups of sex, discipline or body part is restricted by the limited statistical power, Bjørnar adds.

Continued injury surveillance for more WC seasons will provide more data and allow us to better describe the effect of the new ski regulations on the injury rate within subgroups of body parts, sex and disciplines.

Alongside with Haaland, Sophie Steenstrup, Tone Bere, Roald Bahr and Lars Nordsletten contributed to the study. 

Download the paper in British Journal of Sports Medicine (pdf).