Figure or Ice Skating Injuries

Figure or Ice Skating Injuries

Article by J.Miller, J.Dobrowolski

Figure or Ice Skating involves balance, flexibility, strength (the male in a skating duo may have to lift and hold the female skater above his head), explosive power when launching into a jump, and the jarring impact of touch-down from a jump.

Unfortunately, all these can stress the muscles, bones, joints, and skin, and can produce injuries. Such injuries are suffered by both recreational and elite skaters. For the recreational figure skater, injuries happen most commonly due to falling. The impact of the hard ice surface can cause significant bruising.

However, a fall can cause more serious injuries to both the recreational and elite skater. A backward tumble can cause the head to strike the ice. This can produce a concussion. Skaters are advised to tuck their head forward when falling to avoid the brunt of the impact is taken by the shoulders.

Another fairly common injury that occurs as the result of a fall is a wrist injury, which usually occurs when skaters instinctively put out their arms to brace themselves for the impact. A wrist injury can be a relatively mild sprain or a fracture. Fractures (or breaks) can occur in the radius and ulna bones of the forearm, and in a small bone called the scaphoid, which is located near the thumb bone.

Knee injuries can occur in a fall. Usually, the injury is minor, leaving the skater with a sore knee and a bruise. However, a blow can more seriously damage the kneecap, even throwing the kneecap out of alignment. If not corrected by physiotherapy, the patella misalignment can cause progressive damage to the knee and the cartilage that keeps the knee stable. The result is called chondromalacia patellae.

Knees can also be damaged by the twisting force created during jumps or spins. Most commonly, such injury involves the ligaments that properly position the knee joint. Injury to the medial collateral ligament causes pain on the inside of the knee; rest and physiotherapy usually are sufficient for recovery. Damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which produces pain at the front of the knee and can make the knee unable to support a skater’s weight, can require surgery to correct. Injuries to other joints can occur over time with the repetitive motions and stress of skating. The hip joint is particularly susceptible.

Foot injuries are an ever-present part of figure skating. A skater’s feet are tightly secured in leather or leather-synthetic composite boot, and so bear the brunt of the forces generated during the various motions on the ice. Repetitive stretching of the Achilles tendon located at the heel of the foot can cause injury (Achilles tendinopathy).

Tendonitis that affects the bottom of the feet is called plantar fasciitis.

Tendonitis can also occur in the ankle. The feet can become deformed due to the physical stresses of skating. The most common deformity is a bunion, which is a bulge on a joint of the big toe. The top of the toes can also become calloused, a condition called hammer toes. Both conditions are caused by an improper fitting boot, which allows the foot to move inside the shoe.

The explosive power required to propel a skater upward into a jump puts tremendous pressure on the leg and groin muscles. Muscle strains and tears can be a result.

Figure skating injuries have increased in severity since the 1990s. Until then, competitions required skaters to glide in a series of defined patterns to generate shapes that included a circle and a figure-eight. These gentle actions required balance. However, in the 1990s, the figure-carving maneuvers were eliminated from skating competitions and replaced with more physically demanding, and crowd-pleasing jumps and spins. The increased physical stress began to take its toll.

How to Prevent Skating Injuries

Here are some things to help prevent these injuries:

  • always warm up and stretch before skating to stretch your muscles so your muscles will not be stiff
  • make sure you have proper instruction and training on skills
  • make sure you are ready for a skill, mentally and physically, before you try it
  • ask your coach whether he/she thinks that you are ready for something
  • wear proper attire, tie long hair back, no jewellery, no baggy clothing
  • avoid skating when you are injured or exhausted
  • have a first aid kit on hand at the facility and be able to use it for minor injuries
  • seek professional medical care if you suffer pain or injury.

Arm Pain Causes

Arm pain and injuries are widespread. Arm pain can occur as a result of either sudden, traumatic or repetitive overuse. The causes can be related to sports injuries, work injuries or simply everyday arm use.

Arm pain can be a local injury, musculoskeletal injury or could even be referred from nerves in your neck (cervical radiculopathy). This can result in neck-arm pain.

Causes of Arm Pain by Region

Causes of Arm Pain by Structure

Neck-Related Arm Pain

Shoulder-Related Arm Pain

Elbow-Related Arm Pain

Wrist-Related Arm Pain

Hand-Related Arm Pain

Muscle-Related Arm Pain

Other Sources of Arm Pain

Common Causes of Arm Pain

The most common sources of arm pain include shoulder painwrist pain and elbow pain.

Referred Arm Pain

As mentioned earlier, arm pain can be referred to from another source. Cervical radiculopathy is a common source of referred arm pain. Cervical radiculopathy will not respond to treatment where you feel the arm pain. However, it will respond positively to treatment at the source of the injury (e.g. your neck joints).

Professional assessment from a health practitioner skilled in diagnosing both spinal-origin and local-origin (muscle and joint) injuries (e.g. your physiotherapist) is recommended to ensure an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment directed at the arm pain source.

Arm Pain has Diverse Causes.

The causes of your arm pain can be extensive and varied. Due to this diversity, your arm pain should be assessed by a suitably qualified health practitioner to attain an accurate diagnosis, treatment plan and implementation specific to your arm pain.

What Arm Pain is Associated with a Heart Attack?

Left-arm pain can be an early sign of a life-threatening cardiac issue. Based on this, a professional medical assessment that involves an accurate history, symptom analysis, physical examination and diagnostic tests to exclude a potential heart attack is important to exclude this potentially life-threatening source of arm pain.

For more information, please consult with your health practitioner, call an ambulance on 000, or visit a hospital emergency department to put your mind at ease.

Good News. Most Arm Pain is NOT Life-Threatening.

Luckily, life-threatening arm pain is far less likely than a local musculoskeletal injury. Arm pain caused by a localised arm muscle, tendon or joint injury should be assessed and confirmed by your health practitioner before commencing treatment.

Arm Pain Prognosis

The good news is that arm pain, and injury will normally respond very favourably to medical or physiotherapy intervention when early professional assessment and treatment is sought. Please do not delay in consulting your healthcare practitioner if you experience arm pain.

Common Arm Pain Treatments

With accurate assessment and early treatment, most arm injuries respond extremely quickly to physiotherapy or medical care, allowing you to resume pain-free and normal activities of daily living quickly.

Please ask your physiotherapist for their professional treatment advice.