Ski safety summit results in recommendations 

Alpine Canada Alpin releases long list of proposed changes to the sport of alpine ski racing

While the basics of ski racing will never change, the details will be a little different going forward.

On Thursday, Alpine Canada Alpin released a long list of proposed changes to the sport of alpine ski racing following a two-day safety summit.

The summit was attended by athletes, coaches, doctors, scientists, equipment specialists and other experts from the ski community, looking at why the number of injuries has increased at the highest level of the sport, as well as ways that the sport could be made safer in the future.

The recommendations would apply to domestic races and programs only, although the International Skiing Federation is conducting a significant study of its own after a large number of injuries to World Cup racers in recent years.

Some of the proposals that were agreed to at the summit include:

• Consistent snow preparation, and not water injection in courses.

• Course settings would reflect the course conditions, with the goal of reducing speed.

• Jump progressions with jump training for younger skiers and continuing through the athletes' progression.

• ACA would lobby for different suit materials and use of the suits and padding at the World Cup level to cushion falls and slow skiers.

• ACA will conduct safety testing of all helmets used by national team athletes.

• Mouth guards and back braces will be strongly recommended at all levels of ski racing.

• ACA would create a national tracking system for athletes to monitor physical testing and injuries of skiers of all ages.

• Team selection criteria would change, with more of a focus on technical events like slalom for young skiers. Downhill specialization would not occur until age 18.

• Examine use of sleeves and other devices to reduce the risk of knee injuries.

• Improve the management of skiers with injuries.

Max Gartner, ACA president, called the summit a "big step forward."

"By focusing on the risk factors related to injuries we were able to determine where we are at from a scientific point of view and examine what changes can be made, both now and over the longer term, to reduce injuries," he said.

"We've made some progress, particularly with how we approach speed events - going from skill development at the lower level to increasing the age at which skiers are eligible to race in downhill to 18. We also want to make sure we create consistent snow conditions, preferably without the use of water injection. The general aim in course setting will be to reduce speed."

As far as equipment changes, the ACA is waiting to see what FIS's own injury study will come up with. FIS is currently examining prototype boots, skis and bindings that would increase safety - although any changes to equipment most likely wouldn't be introduced until the 2011-2012 season to allow manufacturers time to create the equipment and athletes' time to train on it.

Kelly VanderBeek, who missed the Olympics and all of last season with a knee injury, was hopeful. "I have come to realize that there's no silver bullet when it comes to safety," she said. "But I'm hopeful looking forward."

The summit is the result of the large number Canadian skiers that have been sidelined with serious injuries over the last few seasons.

The injury list includes top skiers John Kucera (left leg), Manuel Osborne-Paradis (left leg and knee), Robbie Dixon (concussion), Kelly VanderBeek (left knee), Jean-Philippe Roy (right knee), Francois Bourque (left knee), Kelly McBroom (left leg), Larissa Yurkiw (left knee) and Louis-Pierre Helie (concussion). Jan Hudec and Erik Guay both missed races this year with minor injuries. Genevieve Simard and Allison Forsyth have also retired in recent years as a result of injuries.




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