VSR: FAQ for Trade

Q#103: Can this or any ski binding truly protect the knee?

Subject: "Salomon Says 'Oversize' Binding Will Protect Knees" - WINTERSPORT BUSINESS (1/99 page 22)
Answer: In our opinion the claims attributed to the Salomon representative regarding protection of the knee are not supported by the scientific literature. They appear to be similar to claims made by Salomon three years ago which were roundly criticized at the time by scientific and legal experts.

The product touted by Salomon, if it follows in the Salomon tradition, should be an excellent choice for any skier concerned with reducing the risk of lower leg injury. But this does not mean that it will contribute to the reduction in serious knee injuries. Although we all hope that lowering the effective release torque (by whatever means) will in some way help to reduce the risk of knee sprains, no support for this hope exists and any claim made today for protection of the knee by such a means is at the very least premature.

Knee injuries account for 25% of the medically significant injuries in skiing and 50% of the total cost of treatment. The ski industry (including Salomon) has spent more than half a million dollars over the past seven years in a cooperative effort to study and solve this problem. My research colleagues and I organized and directed that effort. The study, which we published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, demonstrated a more than 50% reduction in serious knee sprains among those who participated in a highly structured training program (among ski patrollers in the study the reduction was more than 75%).

Since that initial report in 1995 we have reconfirmed the initial findings in a full three-year trial. The lessons learned in that study have evolved into a practical program for the public. Over the past three seasons more than one million pamphlets explaining the program "Tips For Knee Friendly Skiing" (Skier FAQ #3) have been distributed free to the public through ski shops. This effort was paid for by the major binding suppliers (including Salomon).

The findings of our video-based study are backed up by the largest and longest running research project in skiing--worldwide. This study, which was the first to identify the rise in serious knee injuries back in the early '80s, has shown no down-turn in the severe knee sprain rate in recent years and no special advantage for any specific brand or type of binding in protecting the knee.

The type of fall described by Salomon in the current trade article is not, in our opinion, the most common cause of serious knee injury. In fact, we have not collected (nor has Salomon provided) any video evidence of this mechanism leading to serious knee injury.

In our opinion, any claim that a release binding will provide knee protection is unwarranted and we advise any trade or consumer publication choosing to report on such a claim to research its factual basis.--CFE