Common Foot & Ankle Injuries in Figure Skating

The Boston 2014 US Figure Skating Championships are just getting underway, and America is glued to their televisions to see this awesome sport unfold.  This fan favorite will showcase the best of America’s talent, and those ice skating fallwho win will go on to represent our country in the 2014 US Olympic Team.  Huge stakes in a delicate, artful sport.

While all of this is going on, I can’t help but think of the injuries these athletes risk and endure in order to hone their craft. These individuals fly through the air with what are essentially knives on their feet, landing on a tiny blade on the slick ice. Accidents can and do happen, and they face the additional risk of injury from repetitive motions, hard landings, and simple overuse as they train to be the best.

According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, the most common figure skating injuries are caused either by overuse and/or trauma. Single skaters “have a higher incidentce of overuse injuries, while pair skaters and ice dancers are more prone to traumatic injuries.”

Here are some examples of common figure skating injuries:

Common Traumatic Injuries

• Ankle sprains and fractures

• Dislocation of the patella or shoulder

• ACL and meniscal tears

• Head injury and concussion

• Labral tears of the hip

• Lacerations

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

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 skating.

For those who are thinking of training or taking up figure skating, my advice is to take into account the above and invest in periodic checkups with your podiatrist.  Foot stress fractures can be virtually undetectable, with those suffering even walking on them.  Taking into account the huge amount of strain on the body, it’s only prudent to make sure that you’re in top shape by including a professional checkup on a frequent basis. Additionally, consider the following tips to reduce risk of injury:

  • Reduce exposure to high—G—force landings by limiting the repetition of jumps—especially poorly mastered or new jumps—per training session.
  • 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.