In recent years the physical demands of figure skating have increased
dramatically with a corresponding increase in potentially detrimental
effects on the adolescent body. With the elimination of figures from
competition in 1999 and the introduction of a new judging system in
2003, the technical difficulties of spinning, jumping, connecting moves,
lifts, and throws have significantly increased. Sound technique, proper
equipment, and smarter practices and training schedules are imperative
for skaters to maintain healthy bodies.
What are some of the most common figure skating injuries?
Figure skaters suffer both overuse and traumatic injuries. About half
of all injuries are caused by overuse and are preventable. Singles
skaters have a higher incidence of overuse injuries, while pair skaters
and ice dancers are more prone to traumatic injuries.
Common Overuse Injuries
- Stress fractures, most commonly to the foot or spine
- Stress reactions, such as shin splints and medial tibial stress syndrome
- Tendonitis – Achilles, patellar, or peroneal
- Muscle strains of the hip
- Jumpers knee or patellofemoral syndrome
- Apophysitis – Osgood-Schlatter (knee) or iliac crest (hip)
- Bursitis in the ankle
- Lace bite, an irritation of the tibialis anterior and toe extensor tendon
How are figure skating injuries treated?
Common Traumatic Injuries
What causes figure skating injuries?
- Ankle sprains and fractures
- Dislocation of the patella or shoulder
- ACL and meniscal tears
- Head injury and concussion
- Labral tears of the hip
Overtraining and Poor Technique
- Impact at landing generates deceleration forces measuring up to 100
Gs in adolescent skaters. This phenomenal force is transmitted
throughout the lower extremity contacting the ice and axial skeleton and
is the main contributor to the host of injuries sustained in figure
- Boot stiffness: A stiff skating boot is similar to a cast. The
stiffer the boot, the more limited the motion at the ankle and thus the
knee, hip, and back. This limited motion may contribute to muscle weakness in the foot and ankle.
- Blade placement: Poorly placed blades can cause the skater to shift more to an outside or inside edge.
- Blade sharpness: Blades that are too sharp can cause less experienced
skaters to be more susceptible to traumatic injuries due to the
tendency for the blade to "pull" the skater.
Traditional treatment of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is sufficient for many overuse injuries. Bone stimulators, short-acting steroid injections, and platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) injections are emerging as more advanced treatment interventions
for chronic muscles injuries and stress fractures.
How can injuries in figure skating be prevented?
- Reduce exposure to high—G—force landings by limiting the
repetition of jumps—especially poorly mastered or new jumps—per training
- Increase proficiency with new jumps through off-ice training,
use of a harness, and ensuring a proper conception of perfect form prior
to on-ice repetitions.
- Avoid learning new elements during growth spurts, as this causes increased stress on the body.
- Warm up for 5-10 minutes prior to putting on skates and stepping on the ice.
- Properly fit and break in boots; adjust skate blades and sharpen appropriately.
- Inspect ice regularly for chips or gouges that might cause injury.
- Perform off-ice conditioning to improve core strength and fitness.
- Maintain adequate nutrition. Skaters, particularly girls, are at risk for eating disorders.
- Create conversation between coach, skater, and parents to minimize injury and avoid overtraining.
- Avoid skating with pain and see a physician if pain persists.
New York Times 2009, Belluck P. Science Takes to the Ice. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes. com/2009/06/23/science/23skate.html
Porter, E, CC Young, MW Niedfeldt, and LM Gottschlich. "Sport
Specific Injuries and Medical Problems of Figure Skaters." Wisconsin
Medical Journal, Sept. 2007.106(6): 330-4.