Hi from KneeBinding...
Numerous people have asked us if we think Ms. Vonn's injuries could have been avoided if she had a lateral heel release. No one can be sure, of course, but the classic elements are there. The factors that cause most of these injuries are pretty straight-forward, and clearly present in the video of her crash: her hips and knees are bent and she catches an inside edge. The resulting abduction of the lower leg is swift and severe. You can easily see the instant the injury occurs - well before she actually falls, as is often the case with this kind of injury.
When your hips are bent, you can rotate your foot to the inside (such as when you place your right foot on your left knee). But you can’t rotate your leg to the outside because your hip joint “locks” and prevents that kind of movement. In addition, when your knees are bent, the lower leg becomes a significant lever that magnifies any lateral force. If you happen to catch an inside edge in this position (regardless of how you get into this position) you are likely to have a knee injury.
All ordinary bindings have a lateral toe release, and many people think it should release in this situation. In fact, the lateral toe is designed NOT to release in this situation. Lateral toe releases only work when the force causes the ski to rotate around the heel of the boot (the extended axis of the tibia) – not when the force causes the entire lower leg to rotate around the femur (as was clearly the case in Ms. Vonn’s crash today).
The only proven way to mitigate this kind of injury is with a pure-lateral heel release. Although, again, it is impossible to know what will happen in every situation, it is likely that a lateral heel release would have allowed the boot to come out of the binding before the forces were so great that the knee was damaged.
We all wish Ms. Vonn the speediest, best recovery.
Chairman, KneeBinding, Inc.
[EDIT: This post originally appeared in the Linsey Vonn...Crashed, Airlifted thread at post #55. This post and the ones responding to it were moved to a separate thread because the topic of Kneebindings and whether equipment could have prevented injury overwhelmed the intention of the original thread. As of this note 3-days later, this thread is over 6 pages, while the original is half that. We do the same for threads started to comment about serious injuries or deaths, where the topic focuses on discussions expressing concern and sympathy. Intervening analyses of whether helmets or avy equipment could have changed the outcome, are off-topic to the original thread intent, but the discussion is worth continuing on its own merit.