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Sliding Centre injury rate 'comparable' to other tracks: Study

WSL CEO Roger Soane not surprised by findings



A study released last week found that injury rates at the Whistler Sliding Centre are in line with those at the 16 other tracks around the world.

The study, titled "Injuries at Whistler Sliding Center: a 4-year retrospective study" (sic), was released on March 23.

Lead investigator Peter Cripton concluded that the number of injuries suffered on the track is roughly in line with other tracks located in North America and Europe.

"With an overall injury rate of 0.5 percent, the track is pretty comparable to 16 other sliding tracks across the planet," the UBC professor of mechanical engineering said in a release.

The researchers looked at over 42,000 runs taken by roughly 2,600 athletes at the venue from 2007 to 2011. They found more experienced sliders, particularly those with over 150 runs, had a reduced risk of injury. Conversely, athletes who had taken between 30 and 59 runs were at the greatest risk of injury.

As well, the location of the crash was a factor, as roughly 75 per cent of the incidents occurred at corner 13 or lower in the track.

Another factor was the start heights, as those who started higher up were at greater risk of injury. Connecting to the previous point, those sliders would be travelling at greater speeds toward the end of the track.

"The lower the start position, the lower the speed and the safer the athletes tended to be. They had significantly higher risk for injury if they started higher up," Cripton noted.

Whistler Sport Legacies president and CEO Roger Soane said he wasn't surprised with the results, which reinforced the findings of the 2012 Whistler Sliding Centre Sled Trajectory and Track Construction Study conducted by SAIT Polytechnic. The B.C. Coroners Service recommended commissioning the study after 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died after his sled left the track and he crashed into a steel pole at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

While Soane felt the new report essentially was "rehashing old news" of what the previous report discovered, he said there was new information in the comparison to other tracks.

"They went and studied some other tracks as well. There wasn't anything in there that surprised me. There wasn't anything new that came to light," he said. "For me it was a little bit of a non-event."

After the coroner's report, SAIT released safety recommendations for the track, which Soane said were subsequently implemented.

With the 2019 FIBT World Championships slated to come to the track and World Cups for bobsleigh, skeleton and luge likely on the slate for next season, Soane noted the sliding community has accepted the track as suitable for its athletes, especially with the changes that were made.

"We have already had the track re-homologated for World Championships and World Cup races," he said.


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