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Ski jumpers come to LRH for testing

May 20, 2009
LITTLETON—Skiers with the United States Ski Team were at Littleton Regional Hospital's (LRH) Alpine Clinic last week to scientifically investigate how to improve their performance.

Four of the team's 18 members were present and three were from New Hampshire.

"That's almost unheard of in any other ski discipline this day and age for so many to be from New Hampshire," said LRH's Dr. Andrew Chen.

The team members were in New Hampshire Friday and Saturday; Friday at LRH for scientific, diagnostic testing and Saturday for a performance workout in Holderness that tested strength and jumping ability. On Saturday they tested a new exercise regimen that will help establish a baseline though Chen said he wasn't ready to talk about the system, other than to say it is similar to one previously used by both the Germans and Austrians.

The tests are important to get a base measure of the jumpers to compare for when they get concussions, which are incredibly common among skiers, especially ski-jumpers, Chen said. Around 50 percent of all injuries sustained by skiers are concussions, he said.

"Injuries are inherent to the sport," Chen said. He noted several of the jumpers had seven or more concussions in their time in the sport. Any preexisting conditions or injuries are noted during testing. In addition to concussions, strained knees are also common, because of hard landings after sailing a long distance through the air after a jump.

Part of the testing last week was on word recall, name recognition and how quickly ski jumpers are normally able to do these things, to compare for when a skier might be injured. Part of the testing was done using a computer program called IMPAC, which makes it easier to monitor the body and changes in it, Chen said.

"We evaluate everyone in a rigorous manner," Chen said.

The bodies of the jumpers are closely monitored throughout the year, including weight and body mass. The ideal body for a jumper is to have little upper body strength and well developed legs for landing. This configuration seems to help the athletes, both doctors and officials said, for the jumps, which can be as long as 100 meters.

Chris Lamb, of Andover, said he has been ski jumping since he was 6-years old. He tried ski-racing for a time but didn't like it, returning to jumping.

"It's the closest I can come to flying without being in an airplane," Lamb said. Unlike racing and other more popular disciplines, most of the costs for the sport come from the athletes themselves, not sponsors. He said he was grateful for places like LRH's Alpine Clinic, which conduct the testing at no expense to the skiers.

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