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Sports Med. 1988 Oct;6(4):210-21.

Physiology of Alpine skiing.

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Gray Rocks Inn Ski Resort, Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada.


Physiological profiles of elite Alpine skiers reveal the importance of muscular strength, anaerobic power, anaerobic endurance, aerobic endurance, coordination, agility, balance, and flexibility. On-hill snow training and dryland training programmes should focus on the elevation of these fitness components. Physical characteristics of elite skiers reveal an average height and body mass. Today, successful skiers are taller and heavier than their predecessors. Slalom skiers tend to be leaner than skiers in other events while the downhill racers are the heaviest. Elite skiers have strong legs when peak torque is measured during isometric and isokinetic conditions involving knee extension, which may be a specific adaptation since the skier is in a crouched position for a prolonged period when racing. Leg strength correlates significantly with performance in the downhill and giant slalom events. The glycolytic contribution in the slalom and giant slalom events is about 40% of the total energy cost. Following a race, blood lactate concentration averages 9 to 13 mmol/L. A muscle lactate concentration of 24 mmol/kg wet muscle tissue has been reported. Elite skiers have higher lactate values than advanced or novice skiers. The aerobic demands of competitive Alpine skiing may approach (90 to 95%) of the athlete's maximal aerobic power. Maximal heart rate is achieved during the latter part of the race. Elite skiers have a high VO2max. This may reflect their training programme and not the actual demands of the sport. When turning, muscular activity acts to impede blood flow and oxygen delivery. As a consequence, anaerobic metabolism is increased. Glycogen studies show significant utilisation from both slow and fast twitch muscle fibres. Skilled and unskilled skiers differ with respect to glycogen utilisation. Skilled skiers have greater glycogen depletion in the slow twitch fibres compared to unskilled skiers. Muscle glycogen decreases by about 32 mmol/kg wet muscle tissue following a day of ski training. Glycogen depletion may contribute to the injury pattern which peaks toward the end of the ski day. The risk of injury has been estimated at 17 injuries per 1000 skier days. When the severity criterion was an injury causing the skier to miss 3 days of skiing or visit a physician, the risk was 2 injuries per 1000 skier-days.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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