Potential Mechanisms Leading to Overuse Injuries of the Back in Alpine Ski Racing: A Descriptive Biomechanical Study

Am J Sports Med. 2015 Aug;43(8):2042-8. doi: 10.1177/0363546515588178. Epub 2015 Jun 24.


Background: Overuse injuries of the back are a common complaint among top athletes and of competitive alpine skiers in particular. However, there is limited understanding about the sport-specific causes of these injuries that is essential for their prevention.

Purpose/hypothesis: This study was undertaken to describe the sport-specific, overall trunk kinematics and skiers' loading during giant slalom turns and to assess the plausibility of the hypothesis that a combination of frontal bending, lateral bending, and/or torsion in the loaded trunk might be a potential mechanism leading to overuse injuries of the back in alpine ski racing.

Study design: Descriptive laboratory study.

Methods: Eight European Cup-level athletes performed giant slalom runs with 2 different pairs of skis (varying in length, width, and sidecut). They were analyzed with respect to selected kinematic variables related to spinal disc loading. The overall trunk movement components (frontal bending, lateral bending, and torsion) were measured using 2 inertial measurement units fixed on the sacrum and sternum. Total ground-reaction forces were measured by pressure insoles.

Results: During the turn phase in which the total ground-reaction forces were the greatest (up to 2.89 times the body weight), the highest average values of frontal bending (38.7°), lateral bending (14.7°), and torsion (7.7°) in the trunk occurred. Similar magnitudes were observed when skiing on longer, giant slalom skis with less width and sidecut.

Conclusion: The typical loading patterns of the back in alpine ski racing include a combined occurrence of frontal bending, lateral bending, and torsion in the loaded trunk. Because these factors are known to be related to high spinal disc loading, they may be considered important components of mechanisms leading to overuse injuries of the back in alpine ski racing.

Clinical relevance: Prevention measures should aim to control and/or reduce the magnitude of frontal bending, lateral bending, and torsion in the trunk, as well as the peak loads, while skiing.

Keywords: athletes; back pain; injury prevention; overuse injuries; skiing; spine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Posture
  • Rotation
  • Skiing / injuries*
  • Weight-Bearing