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Safest bindings?


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After reading about the terrible break Olando76 suffered, and especially after viewing the gruesome x-rays he posted, I'm wondering what bindings or binding systems are considered the safest, particularly in terms of preventing this kind of injury. I suppose it might also be worthwhile knowing the types of bindings that are least likely to prevent such injuries.
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You can never recreate the same fall. I thought rubbers were pretty safe. I feel using a MOB release system with your preferred binding is safest, probably $1200 set up for doubles. Expensive but this is costing me I’m guessing $15-20k out of pocket and mega agony all the way around. The MOB gives release in a lateral direction where as the Reflex may only protect in an OTF fall? I’m not sure, I’m interested in hearing others chime in.

 

IMHO RELEASE MECHANISMS ARENT FOR THE ELITE SHORTLINERS.

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Safest binding in my opinion is currently the MOB system.

Release systems that I've personally used;

FM Quattro - moved off this to the MOB but used >10 years

FM Revo - Still on my trick ski

Reflex (OG style) - Tried on my trick ski before I bought the Revo - really prefer the Fit of the FM boot to the reflex shell.

OB4 - Aluminum sole plates rocked too much, felt like it would let the ski move under my boots.

MOB - The large G10 front plate is way better than the OB4 aluminum in re: keeping the boot on the plate/connectivity.

 

 

My opinion is that it is not safe to run the Silvretta/reflex products in a dual hardshell configuration, I know some people do it. And also no offense to @mmosley899 but I'm personally not sold on running a dual boot set up with his product either for the main reason that when we're discussing a mechanical release the potential for one release to release when it shouldn't (like a front boot pre-releasing through the wakes) is just too much risk for me to consider "safe". I know Mike will comment that if the specific energy in either sole plate is high enough it will release so atleast it shouldn't destroy your ankle, but I've seen a number of odd front foot out rear foot in injuries including tibial fractures, skis busting up the back of peoples heads etc. So I'm real reluctant about any system where you could have a front out back in release.

 

The FM Quattro I was OK with since the single rear spring unit held the rear heel down, and the rear boot held the front boot down (and a tiny patch of weak velcro) so if the rear came off the front was off and vice-versa. The negative to the FM Quattro is cost, and the interconnectivity of all the components means you do have to adjust precisely all the components to make any change to front boot location. Want to move your rear binding back? You've got to undo the boot from its sole plate and drill holes.

 

Dual hardshell single plates - even with the FM quattro where the front boot should lift off w/o the rear lifting off - when you peg a turn ball you can have a scenario where you hyperflex that front ankle with out release of the rear boot - I've done this on the FM and had it go to the point the cuff was up over the lower shell and stuck there, and that was with a system where you couldn't carry the ski by the front cuff with out releasing the boot... so <10 pounds front heel retention.

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IMO a reflex or MOB is the safer system then rubber. on neither of these two systems you can get the boot as tight as you want and set the release as tight or loose as you want. At the RISC ski club we have many levels of skiers all of us use Reflex and before a few where tweaking ankles in rubber binding yearly. no one has had a tweak or injury in years (Knock On Wood.)

 

@Orlando76 if you watch the pros all but 1 or 2 use hard shells with releases.

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Just to clarify, I thought rubber was second safest in lieu of a mechanical release. Not rubbers with a mechanical. I believe if you use anything other than a hard shell with release you risk loosing the binding in a fall. My next setup I’ll try a MOB with a hard shell of some sort with a hybrid Reflex R style? in the rear.
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You can get hurt in any binding. The trick is to understand the pros and cons of any binding. In the last 10 years I have mostly used Radar and Reflex. You can use of either of these systems to be extremely dangerous or extremely safe. The trick is to understand to how they release and make a decision on your risk level.

 

My rule with the Radar Vapor (and other similar systems) bindings is that i have to run the top lace loose enough that I can pull the ski off without loosening the lace.

 

Here is my Reflex release test.

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@Deanoski - caveat there - Reflex you want to set by test releasing like horton's video and the force is subjective - between two reflex plates I had they had drastically different settings on the chart to feel the same, MOB should be set per instructions and only deviate if you notice a performance issue at the recommended settings.

 

The trouble with rubber, is spirals. A properly fitted front rubber will be fine for 99% of skiers 99% of the time. And then there is you, well and me, and I think @6balls ?

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Things happen and there's always gonna be that freak accident. . @MS is right. It's all opinion as to what's the safest. I could easily say that double shells and no release is safest as I've had 0 serious injuries having been on them since 2001 and have had my share of horrendous crashes. Is it that it was safer or did I just not ski past my limits every set. Ultimately the safest system is between your ears and how far your willing to push things. I don't get paid to ski. If things do not feel perfect, the line stays longer that day. Change bindings to something that's "safer", but you find yourself struggling on your opener. How safe is that? Ski set up plays a role as well. I can set up a ski that's pretty damn scary or set one up that tracks and performs despite my skiing flaws. The second keeping me safer. How well do you know the boot system you're using, it's adjustability limits and hardware maintenance? How often do you check for loose screws? What's your level of fitness and flexibility? Was the driver straight or did they short you into the ball. So many variables. What is good is that these companies are doing their best to make safer systems, like the MOB having added releasability from a twisting motion.
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Note: in the above videos I tightened father than I would today. In the last few years my settings have gotten lighter.

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@wawaskr perhaps you are right but there are certainly some dangerous bindings

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I use Radar's bindings (Strada/Vapor/Carbitex, etc.). At the end of every set, I grab the tip of my slalom and pull it toward me to release/exit without undoing any of the laces. If I can't do that, then I had the laces too tight. I follow @Horton 's approach which was basically tight on the foot, loose on the ankle. I have never fallen and wished the bindings had/had not released. They release when I thought they should have and not when I thought they shouldn't have.

 

For the most part, if one is skiing correctly the forces which could cause a release are minimal. In fact, I bet most skiers could run one of their smooth passes with zero ankle cuffs. When we ski correctly, we are mostly standing balanced and centered over the ski with the dominant force being downward through our stack to the ski.

 

If a skier is scrambling and all over the place (diving on the tip, overly twisted through the wakes, etc.), then possibly a less secure binding setup might cause a release, even an unwanted one. Again, it becomes a risk/reward decision. Possibly a highly competitive skier may even train with a lighter/looser setting, but switch to a more aggressive setting during a critical tournament. Again, risk vs reward as others have stated.

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I bought the Reflex bindings this year 'cause all the cool kids had them. It was one of the best waterskiing investments I have made. My falls have been so much easier since. I had a fall last week over the ball that would have been a serious ankle tweaker. Instead, the ski popped off and I just twirled around in the water a bit.
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"Ultimately the safest system is between your ears" @Wish nailed it!

 

Waterskiing is a high stress sport. We also can do it as we age - making us far more susceptible to injury. Strength training, flexibility work and a diet with enough calcium and vitamin D to keep bones strong are the best preventative measures.

 

I broke my hip just pulling out for the gates - no fall even! (OK, they needed magnifying glasses to see the fracture - nothing like @Orlando76 - but I did end up needing a titanium hip replacement.) Don't ski rough water, don't ski when bruised up, don't try too hard and don't be unlucky.

 

I've switched off double boots that usually both stay on to a toe kicker (hardshell! - it's funky but good). I'm using a rubber banded hardshell which releases kind of like rubber, kind of like a Radar RS1 but is still pretty anchored. No extreme high energy falls, yet, but it does release.

 

I'm working on a modified MOB (I can't use anything stock) but haven't got it figured out yet. His is an elegant release but it doesn't work on my ski with no flat top surface.

 

Nothing will prevent all injuries.

 

Eric

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What @Wish said.

on a not very good day stay on longer lines, if things go south don’t go for the next buoy. Battle uncertainty with solid technique.

Stay lucky!

Proper maintenance and understanding your system is very important.

I moved to Reflex 10 years ago after an ankle tweak and had no injury ever since (lucky too).

I have learned a lot about this system over the years, I used to run the release at 7.5, had crashed some times over these years as I was also improving in skiing.

Now I run it at 4.5, had no prerelease and it is the first time that have not released since last November, only my back foot just a couple of times and it’s in a kicker.

Dry land testing it some times and check screws all the time.

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As soon as I saw the MOB system I became a fan a year or 2 ago. Finally made my purchase a couple months ago. i have had a couple easy falls (over turning etc.) that didn't release (those are falls that I wouldn't have come out in my previous set up that I ran VERY loose,) as a result I don't feel like there is great potential of early-release. I had one out the back twisting fall, and it did release very smoothly. I felt nothing and only realized it had released as my foot (with boot on) felt a little free-er under water, then I saw my ski floating by....

 

I would also add that in addition to knowing your limits, good technique, coming from good instruction, will make you a safer skier. I see better skiers than me (in that they run faster and shorter lines) that just look like they are constantly inches away from a catastrophic wipe-out. Then I have watched from the boat, skiers skiing into 35off at 36 mph that look solid and stable. I get the concept of alignment pounded into my head as often as I can. Bad alignment causes movement and instability across the wakes, that not only makes it hard to get through the course, but can lead to nasty over the front wipe outs. GOOD instruction not only improves your skiing, but can lead to skiing safer.

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I know that I might catch some flack for this, but I really wish they still made the HO EXO bindings. I feel they rank right up there as some of the safest bindings as long as you know how to set them and maintain them. First, I have been very fortunate to take some crazy falls on them, whether it be running over the ball, going out the back, side, front or twisting fall and they have released as I expect them to. I like everything being on one plate or bar in the case of the EXO, I feel that both feet connected to the same plate and coming out together is really the safest option. My EXO's are getting old, so I am starting to look for new bindings and if I was going to buy some today, I would probably go with the MOB system as everything is on that single plate with a single release unit. With that being said, if anyone has an size small EXO's laying around, please let me know because I would like to continue to use this set up. Now I am not a deep short line skier, run 15-28 @34 and get a few at 32 on a good day, but I feel pretty safe in this current set-up.
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@BraceMaker you are correct...a bad rotational fall for me and next thing my foot was facing backwards.

 

Mike at MOB is super helpful to any interested skiers. I also have seen at a tourney a buoy-strike fall that I think would have been disaster and release was perfect. I know Mike has a good number of stories, too, where almost with certainty his release would have prevented the injury that occurred. Some of those were in releasable bindings but the skiers leg got rotated and they did a spiral fracture like mine.

 

Question is kinda like handle guards. We don't all use 'em but we sure see every once in a while someone put their arm or their head thru the handle. Life is a game of risk management, and we all have different tolerances. I do personally believe that the MOB, given it's mechanism, has to be the safest when properly set up. If it's not, please tell me why not or why another would be safer--rational arguments accepted while realizing I don't have hard data to support my assertions.

 

 

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All we can do is share our opinions and experiences so anyone reading can make best decision possible. For my part, I took an OTF 5 years ago that resulted in a destroyed left ankle (surgeon called it a “9 out of 10”). Thought I might not ski again, but with encouragement and advice from pros like Seth Stisher and Mike Mosley, I was back at it 18months later, on top of an OB4 double boot system.

 

Now I run a hybrid OB4/MOB front boot, with a Reflex rear. I find the Reflex rear gives much needed forward flex, and a much lighter weight ski. I’ve had one or two identical OTF’s since, with no hint of injury. Only injury I’ve had since was a small tweak when I fell while experimenting with a higher release pressure. +1 for just following Mike’s pressure settings. He’s got it right!

 

Only things you need to know with the OB4/MOB system is that it is heavier than the others due to the metal plate (MOB’s new plate is somewhat better in this area), and the release mechanism does need occasional lubrication (once every outing for me). Small price to pay IMHO!

 

Heal up @Orlando76 ! You’ll get there!

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@OscawanaSkier is that a Reflex R-Style rear you are using?

 

I don't personally find it to be meaningfully heavy, by that If you take a pair of Wileys high wraps those are pretty heavy boots - lots of rubber. Most of the newer soft side bindings with intuition liners are quite a bit lighter than all that rubber, so where you get some weight in the plates it lets you run a Radar/Obrien/connelly whatever shell on the plate and really crank down the laces and still get a release.

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@wawaskr I think you mean there is no SAFE binding, which is clearly a true statement. If you want to be certain to never get hurt while waterskiing, there is exactly one way to do it: Never waterski.

 

But that's completely different from considering the safest binding, at least for a given skier.

 

One of the great logic fallacies that we all do sometime is "the risk can't be brought to zero, so I should completely ignore risk."

 

Nope. Keep working to mitigate risk, whether using your head or your backup plan (aka equipment). Just because you can't get to zero doesn't mean you can't get closer to zero.

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Thank you @Than_Bogan, well said.

 

I understand the argument that the best safety gear is between your ears. Here's the problem, that safety device isn't perfect. Even if you try to take things easy and slow up when it doesn't feel right, by the time you feel something wrong it may be too late. I broke my ankle last year and wasn't going crazy, I just made an error because I'm human.

 

I also pulled some ligaments in my ankle when I crashed this year. That time my laces were really loose and I had checked to make sure my foot could come out. It probably doesn't help that I have a rather long foot so it gets caught up in the binding.

 

Snow skiers wouldn't ski without release bindings now that they are available. They also wouldn't ski with a binding that only releases in one direction now that multi-directional systems exist. Why are we content with at best a single axis, at worst nothing? I personally went with the MOB after my last injury. Ultimately it's everyone's decision what level of risk to take.

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Nobody has mentioned Velcro. While it doesn't twist off like the MOB, it is a pretty elegant solution to the binding issue. Light and simple, you aren't welded to the ski. Use whatever shell feels best over the plate. Widely used so it doesn't seem horrendously unsafe. There are some hacks (gatormod comes to mind) that further improve safety.

 

Or Gatorade lids! I used the frangible link release for years with no injuries. Some falls properly didn't release, some falls the liner came out of the shells, some falls the Gatorade lid broke away properly and a couple ripped the inserts out of the ski. And no serious injuries.

 

@vtmecheng Bode Miller's ski racing career ended when his ski released and came back to slice open his leg. Ski racers use releasable bindings because they are required to use them by race rules. I'm a pretty aggressive bump skier but I run my bindings at 6 or 7 (fairly light settings) and I almost never release. Snow ski tech maybe has gone closer to @Than_Bogan 's safety goal by making bindings that hardly ever release.

 

My worst snow ski injuries were from releases. Except for the boot top fracture which shouldn't have released no matter what (stupid poor design of the old Nordica red racer boots quickly redesigned - that's why they were cheap to buy used).

 

@Orlando76 might have avoided injury if his foot hadn't come out. For those of us using a rear toe kicker or easy out rear boot, there might be extra risk. An easier release with more degrees of freedom might prevent some injuries. As long as the flailing ski doesn't come get you.

 

The optimal binding is more than one that just releases in all directions. We may actually be pretty close to it already - as evidenced by the age of the skiing population. There might not be a sport that is so physically demanding but still full of really old skiers skiing at a high level. Something is working.

 

Eric

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@eleeski, before release bindings the number of leg and ankle fractures in snow skiing was really high. That's what spurred the desire for a good release system. It took years and the rise and fall of many different systems to get where we are today. Your comment about Bode comes back to two things. One, that's a single data point. It's like saying, "a friend got hurt in a car accident while wearing a seat belt so they are bad." Two, Bode was a high end athlete who pushed to the limit. He's likely going to put himself at a high risk of injury compared to an average skier.

 

Regarding the idea of keeping two feet in. I know multiple guys who have broken both legs due to that. I'd rather come out but that's my choice.

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I still think a system like the HO EXOForm was ahead of it's time. I think that there are real safety benefits by keeping both feet together whether in the ski or when the binding releases. Unfortunately, this system was far from perfect and it never really took off. Bottom line... the sport involves risk. Make the wrong move on any system and you are going to get injured. What would be nice is to see a compilation of data on waterski injuries so that a data driven design could be brought to the market. I still don't see that happening but it would be a great goal. Right now, I think most bindings/boots are being designed on gut feeling by engineers/designers who incorporate what they feel is the most likely way to get injured. I would not be surprised to see that injury rates/types differ greatly between the 36 mph, 39 off crown and the 30 mph, 15 off group. l also think age would be a valuable safety aspect to look at. I.e. do older skiers have different injuries from younger skiers. Thus, the answer to a question like this is so personal that no one can say there is a safest system out there.
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Following up on the snow ski comments, even though getting a bit off-topic. This is a

story from about 1959, when snow bindings were evolving and a bit primitive. A buddy

had broken his leg skiing, so I got the "safest" bindings: Miller bindings. Where there

was a metal lug screwed into the toe and heel of each boot. Before boot standardization.

The company had a $1,000 guarantee (About $8,700 today) if you broke a leg with the

bindings set by the shop installer.

 

Got out of the car, and clicked into the skis (snow on the parking lot back then). Slid ahead

about 3-4 steps, and walked out of the bindings. The ski brake flipped down and broke

off. Cheapie white metal. EZ to make that guarantee when the bindings are set so light.

 

At least, with waterski bindings, we are ahead of that era in snow ski release bindings.

 

Side story: I used snow ski bindings on my jumpers in 1968--1969. Lange Standard

boots and Look Nevada bindings. 3rd in the 1969 Eastern Regionals. Trivia Question:

Who came in 4th place?

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@vtmecheng " Bode was a high end athlete who pushed to the limit." As are many here. @Orlando76 might not get an elite tag but he was skiing at a level far above "average". This thread might not exist if he'd been in non releasable double boots. MOB might have helped but the energy to release a double boot plate with just the torque from one foot might still cause injury. Realistically, the MOB release could have preceded the back foot out - but velcro could have done the same. I've never heard of any double breaks from staying in double boots. Car crashes involving double boot users breaking both legs, yes, but not skiing.

 

@Deanoski Bode's issue was not a pre release. It was just a release. Perhaps he would have had a different injury if the ski had stayed on. My point was that some snow ski racers want no release for safety reasons. A setting of 20 is pretty close to that and the bindings might still rip out of the ski for a release (had that happen to me at 6).

 

@Edbrazil The Silveretta clip on Reflex is from snow skiing. The MOB plunger is an adaptation of the old Besser snow ski binding. Lots of shared technology.

 

@HighAltitude Age is certainly a huge factor. Age is our Achilles heel (groan - bad joke, especially for older guys with torn Achilles tendons which disproportionally affects older people). Bone density was a factor for my injury. General age fragility makes me much less fall tolerant now. Release needs are different for sure.

 

The trend to toe kickers or cut down rear shells does make this thread even more relevant. As one of the engineers working on this, I haven't got the TLAR solution to the slalom boot yet. Still playing with it. I know others are as well (thanks @mmosley899 for leading the challenge).

 

Eric

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@eleeski I have a friend that did both tib/fibs in dbl high wrap wrap after a buoy strike. It sucked getting him out of those and off the ski/into the boat and carrying him into the ER. Kind of a "pretty boy" type but I found out he's tuff as nails...maybe the shock but he sure handled pain well. Outlier for sure (single data point) never heard of it before or since.
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Again, I ski with a guy who was in double bindings and didn't come out of either. He broke tib/fin in both legs. Is that common? Probably not but man would that suck. Ultimately, it's everyone's personal choice and yes, it's likely what each feels is safe. I personally will not ski without a release system now. That's my choice.
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A little off topic, but read about injuries related to buoy strikes a couple times. Three years ago I blew an ACL with a buoy strike.

Since then I only use soft Wally buoys that are underinflated so the half that is under water is very collapsed. The top half looks fine. But, when you hit one, it crushes easily. Can still end a pass, but far less likely to hurt you.

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Fluid Motion in the mix here?

Because this all seems so subjective I’ll throw my FM Evo double boots in the mix. Only skied them for the last month of the season and real-time “tested” the release mechanism twice (cuff and liner come out as shell stays on plate) it has given me more confidence than my RefleX ever have (never truly trusted my realease after going OTF while pulling out with a 7.5 din) and more control than my Radar BOAs could ever offer. They certainly give me the perception that I am safe®.

 

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@NorthIdahoLPO I have been on FM Evo single boot with RTP for 11 years and I do believe they are as safe as, or safer, than anything out there. I have had one ankle injury in the last 11 years and no binding would have saved me from it, IMHO. The injury occurred when I hit a buoy and the ski skipped out then re-engaged the water sideways and jammed me down into the ski (i.e. compression style), no bindings release in this scenario.

 

I like the fact that the cuff comes off the hardshell so the whole hardshell isn't flailing around on your foot just waiting to hammer your other leg, like a lot of people experience with the Silveretta release.

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Do you guys feel that the same considerations about which system is safer apply to someone who is still learning the course? Say, 15 off at 28 mph? Are the adjustments required with a Reflex or a MOB system too tricky if a stacked position hasn't been mastered yet and the skier wobbles too much through the wakes? Is there the risk of erring on the side of soft settings that can possibly result in pre-releases? I guess we could argue that a pre-release is better than no release and a sprained ankle or worse?
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So out of stacked position will punish you with hardshells, but MOB is not a boot its a binding release plate, you can screw basically any soft shell binding that has laces to it so long as you replace bungie laces with cord so you dont lose your boot.

 

So for instance Im using an Obrien Legion boot on an MOB binding. But I also put an FM shell on it for a bit.

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@pregom, I'm technically still learning the course, 15 at 30 mph isn't consistent. I got the MOB after two ankle injuries in two seasons. We have had horrible weather the past two years so the seasons have been short and so has my progress. Like @BraceMaker said, the system works with most any boot, mine is on an xMax.
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