Underweight in ski jumping: The solution of the problem

Int J Sports Med. 2006 Nov;27(11):926-34. doi: 10.1055/s-2006-923844. Epub 2006 May 30.


Underweight is becoming increasingly prevalent in many sports. Among world class ski jumpers, the body mass index BMI has decreased by 4 units since 1970. The BMI ignores different body properties of individuals. Particular care should be taken in groups with unusual leg length to avoid classifying them inappropriately as thin or overweight (WHO). The improved measure MI (mass index) for relative body weight overcomes this shortcoming. Anthropometric data of ski jumpers was collected during the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City (2002; participation 81 %, n = 57), during the Summer Grand Prix in Hinterzarten (2000; participation 100 %, n = 92), and during the World Cup in Planica (2000; n = 56). The BMI and the MI were determined. The MI considers the individual leg length: A person with longer legs than average has an MI > BMI, and vice versa: MI = 0.28 m/s2 (m: mass in kg, s: sitting height in meters). BMI classes of ski jumpers in the season 2004/2005 were calculated from their official individual ski length limitation which is a function of their BMI. BMI means were 19.84 in Planica, 19.58 in Hinterzarten, and 19.43 kg m(-2) in SLC. Lowest BMI was 16.4 kg m(-2). The percentage of underweight ski jumpers (BMI < 18.5 kg m(-2)) decreased from 22.8 % at the Olympic Games 2002 to 8.7 % in the season 2004/2005 due to the new ski jumping regulations. The ratio s/h = C (s = sitting height, h = height, C = cormic index) ranged from 0.49 to 0.57. Accordingly, the MI values (which are leg length corrected BMI values according to MI = BMI (C /C) (k) with k = 2 and C = 0.53) deviated remarkably from BMI values. For the 49 cases with BMI or MI or both below 18.5 kg m(-2), the classification to be underweight or not changed in 69 % when the MI was used instead of the BMI. Underweight or overweight is not only a question of cut-off points; the measure used determines the classification accuracy. A substantial improvement of weight analyses in sports medicine, public health, and general medicine as well can be obtained by using the MI instead of the BMI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anthropometry / methods
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight*
  • Humans
  • Skiing*
  • Thinness / diagnosis*