While twirling around on ice and leaping through the air on the thinnest of blades, figure skaters make every graceful move look effortless.
However, mastering these skills requires a great deal of strength, flexibility, proper form, coordination, and hours of training.
There are injury risks for every athlete, in every sport, but if a skater doesn’t properly train, then he or she is at an increased risk for more serious or frequent injuries. Those include concussions, pulled or torn muscles and ligaments, strains, and sprains.
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Common Figure Skating Injuries
Some common figure skating injuries include:
- Back and neck pain from extension of the back
- Hip and knee contusions (bruises)
- Injuries such as “lace bite” or “pump bumps” that can result from ill-fitting skates
- Stress fractures, fractures, and sprains to the ankles and wrists caused by breaking falls, not warming up properly, or general overuse from movements like jumping and landing
- Tears to structures in the knee, such as the meniscus or anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
If skaters are training for a duet or practicing with a new partner, they can easily injure themselves. Male skaters lifting females into the air can lead to strained muscles or various other injuries if there’s a collision or drop.
Falling on the ice accounts for many injuries common in figure skaters. Falling during both practice and competitions can result in sprains, torn ligaments, concussions, and general bumps and bruises that can wear you down.
Sometimes the force from a fall results in torn or strained ligaments, especially in the knee. You may need rehabilitation and sometimes surgery to recover from the injury. Concussions aren’t uncommon when a skater falls, runs into the boards, or collides with another skater, either.
Injuries also occur when skaters try to break a fall, including sprained or torn ligaments in the wrist.
As with any sport, properly fitted, skill, and age-level appropriate equipment plays a role in helping prevent injuries. For figure skaters, this makes their skates very important. “Lace bite” is the term given to the painful irritation that appears on the front of the ankle from repeated rubbing of the skate laces on the foot, according to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.
Skaters may also experience “pump bumps,” or prominent bumps on the outside of the heel because of the heel moving too much in the boot, according to a study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. Achilles tendon pain occasionally accompanies pump bumps.
To avoid equipment-related injuries, regularly check your skates and feet for signs of wear and tear. Make sure you’re wearing the right size skate, and don’t wear skates that aren’t conformed to your feet. Replace skates and blades as needed, and avoid tying your laces too tightly.
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Preventing Injuries in Figure Skating
Proper conditioning can help reduce the risk of injuries for figure skaters. Both on- and off-ice training can help figure skaters build up the muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance needed to perform twists and jumps while gliding along the ice. Cardiovascular exercises can also help skaters build up stamina, and weight training can help strengthen ankle, leg, arm, and core muscles, reducing your risk of injury, according to the Strength and Conditioning Journal.
Figure skaters should also mentally prepare for some of the more difficult twists and jumps. Working with a trusted coach to build confidence before attempting them can help. If you’re working on a pair routine, make sure there’s solid trust and communication between both partners.
Getting Back on the Ice with UPMC
UPMC Sports Medicine experts understand the strain that athletes place on their bodies and have experience working with athletes of varying ages and skill levels. Our experts believe in an active approach to rehabilitation, and they work closely with injured athletes to develop a treatment plan.
About Sports Medicine
Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.