Introduction Head injuries represent a concern in skiing and snowboarding, with traumatic brain injuries being the most common cause of death. Aim To describe the mechanisms of head and face injuries among World Cup alpine and freestyle skiers and snowboarders. Methods We performed a qualitative analysis of videos obtained of head and face injuries reported through the International Ski Federation Injury Surveillance System during 10 World Cup seasons (2006-2016). We analysed 57 head impact injury videos (alpine n=29, snowboard n=13, freestyle n=15), first independently and subsequently in a consensus meeting. Results During the crash sequence, most athletes (84%) impacted the snow with the skis or board first, followed by the upper or lower extremities, buttocks/pelvis, back and, finally, the head. Alpine skiers had sideways (45%) and backwards pitching falls (35%), with impacts to the rear (38%) and side (35%) of the helmet. Freestyle skiers and snowboarders had backwards pitching falls (snowboard 77%, freestyle 53%), mainly with impacts to the rear of the helmet (snowboard 69%, freestyle 40%). There were three helmet ejections among alpine skiers (10% of cases), and 41% of alpine skiing injuries occurred due to inappropriate gate contact prior to falling. Athletes had one (47%) or two (28%) head impacts, and the first impact was the most severe (71%). Head impacts were mainly on snow (83%) on a downward slope (63%). Conclusion This study has identified several characteristics of the mechanisms of head injuries, which may be addressed to reduce risk.
Introduction Prior to the 2013/2014 season, the International Ski Federation (FIS) increased the helmet testing speed from 5.4 to 6.8 m/s for alpine downhill, super-G and giant slalom. Whether this increased testing speed reflects head impact velocities in real head injury situations on snow is unclear. We therefore investigated the injury mechanisms and gross head impact biomechanics in seven real head injury situations among World Cup (WC) alpine skiers. Methods We analysed nine head impacts from seven head injury videos from the FIS Injury Surveillance System, throughout nine WC seasons (2006-2015) in detail. We used commercial video-based motion analysis software to estimate head impact kinematics in two dimensions, including directly preimpact and postimpact, from broadcast video. The sagittal plane angular movement of the head was also measured using angle measurement software. Results In seven of nine head impacts, the estimated normal to slope preimpact velocity was higher than the current FIS helmet rule of 6.8 m/s (mean 8.1 (±SD 0.6) m/s, range 1.9±0.8 to 12.1±0.4 m/s). The nine head impacts had a mean normal to slope velocity change of 9.3±1.0 m/s, range 5.2±1.1 to 13.5±1.3 m/s. There was a large change in sagittal plane angular velocity (mean 43.3±2.9 rad/s (range 21.2±1.5 to 64.2±3.0 rad/s)) during impact. Conclusion The estimated normal to slope preimpact velocity was higher than the current FIS helmet rule of 6.8 m/s in seven of nine head impacts.