The importance of being light: aerodynamic forces and weight in ski jumping

J Biomech. 2002 Aug;35(8):1059-69. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9290(02)00066-0.


Many contemporary world class ski jumpers are alarmingly underweight and several cases of anorexia nervosa have come to light. Athletes strive for low body weight because it gives them a major competitive advantage. In order to stop this hazardous development, changes to the regulations are being discussed, and the International Ski Federation and the International Olympic Committee wish to be proactive in safe guarding the interest of the athletes and their health. This study of ski jumping uses field studies conducted during World Cup competitions, large-scale wind tunnel measurements with 1:1 models of ski jumpers in current equipment and highly accurate computer simulations of the flight phase that include the effects due to the athlete's position changes. Particular attention has been directed to the design of a reference jump that mirrors current flight style and equipment regulations (2001), and to the investigation of effects associated with variation in body mass, air density, and wind gusts during the simulated flight. The detailed analysis of the physics of ski jumping described here can be used for the investigation of all initial value and parameter variations that determine the flight path of a ski jumper and will form a reliable basis for setting regulations that will make it less attractive or even disadvantageous for the athlete to be extremely light.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Movements*
  • Body Weight*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Rheology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skiing / physiology*
  • Sports*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Wind