Okay, I got roasted......yesterday, and deservedly so. Masters is not required to adhere to the FIS regulations, which I basically knew, and whatever local problems I have with course setting are just that...my problems.
I am, like all of us, concerned about ski racing generally and, specifically, the impact equipment regulations have on junior racers. So let me make a few random observations and get off the stage:
- Quoting from the Ski Racing article, "Citing the rapid increase in injuries, particularly to juniors, the FIS and the Ski Racing Supplier Association, which is composed of most hardgoods manufacturers, agreed to make changes which would lower standheights and increase ski widths." So the World Cup regulations for GS will change, quoting from the same article, "Giant slalom ski radiuses will be regulated as well. For men, the GS ski minimum radius will be 27 m and the women's 23 m." As a number of you have noted, how is that going to help junior racers? I saw a pretty sane proposal from songfta re different strokes for different folks, with an eye toward rules for juniors that allow them to be competitive and be safe at the same time. As a number of you have also noted, however, nobody knows if the new rules are across the board or not. And the FIS isn't telling, apparently. As songfta says "What worries me is that the USSA tends to be in lock-step with FIS regulations, to the detriment of many junior racers."
- Not to put too fine a point on it, but how is mandating less sidecut going to help the World Cup? Again quoting from the Ski Racing article, Gunther Hajara said "We feel that these changes will have a positive effect on reducing the number of injuries we are experiencing." Teriffic, and I don't, so where's the evidence? As whygimf notes "April 19th, 2006 - The design of the research and data collection program underlying the FIS Injury Surveillance System (ISS) has been established by the ISS Steering Group consisting of FIS Medical Committee members Bengt Saltin (chairman), Hans Spring and Eero Hyvärinen, and Roald Bahr and Stig Heir as the representatives of the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center (OSTRC). As announced, the program will commence with the beginning of the 2006/2007 competition season."
Swell. There's only two problems with that initiative: (1) Regardless of what this study might show, the results won't be in until the end of next season, and the FIS has already decided to change the rules for 2007-2008 sans any existing evidence and (2) The study will be conducted thusly: "Building on the existing FIS injury reporting system, detailed data will eventually be collected on all injuries that occur during official training or competition in a FIS-sanctioned competition in all disciplines and also require attention by medical personnel. The injury reports will be augmented by interviews with athletes and coaches in select World Cup teams and records maintained by team medical personnel." All you're likely to get out of that effort is the same kind of fuzzy logic that says "2 plus 2 could equal 5...in a parallel universe."
If you really want to know what's causing knee injuries among juniors, go ask somebody who actually knows something about skiing and knees. Somebody like Dick Steadman, for example, whom I'm sure would be glad to act as a consultant to the FIS. I'll bet the first thing out of Steadie's mouth would be something like "Well, to start with, God did a pretty poor job of designing the human knee." That's not to say that equipment changes can't help the situation, but they're not the only answer, and, as many of you have noted, the proposed changes, depending on how they're implemented, might actual cause more injuries, especially to juniors!
I get thoroughly annoyed with the FIS, because every few years, it takes a death or rash of serious injuries to make the FIS realize that there is, in fact, a problem out there. It took Brian Stemmle almost getting killed at the Hahnenkamm and Gernot Reinstadler actually getting killed in the Lauberhorn before the FIS woke up to what everybody already knew, and had been telling them for years, which is that the current safety reqs for speed events weren't cutting it.
Okay, so I believe that Hajara is concerned...sort of. Let's back up one...wasn't Hajara the same guy who let the Olympic Super G start in, at best, marginal conditions, and, at worst, really dangerous conditions?
Ski racing is never going to be an injury free sport, just as Indy car racing is never going to be a crash-free event. Ski racing, however, can be safer, more fun, and a more even playing field for all competitors, not just juniors. But it takes an overall look at all safety issues, plus Management by the Facts, not what I feel, or the FIS feels, or what somebody else thinks.