I am a self-proclaimed Olympics junkie! I love that we get to highlight athletes of all sports and countries and come together to cheer for the USA!
One of my favorite winter sports to watch is figure skating – men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dancing. As we all get ready to binge-watch Olympic coverage for two weeks, let’s take a minute to consider some of the injuries that these athletes may face along their journey to the Olympic stage.
The most common injuries found for single skaters are those of overuse.1,3 Figure skating requires a lot of time commitment and practice. This means much repetition of the same movement or skill, which can inevitably lead to overuse injuries. The most common sites of these repetitive injuries are the ankles, back, knee and hip. Oftentimes figure skaters will continue to train even when dealing with conditions such as tendinitis or bursitis.1
In contrast, traumatic injuries are a little more frequent for pairs skating.3 When skating in pairs, timing and synchronization are key. If either of these elements are off, injuries are more likely due to collisions, falls or dropped catches.
• Stress fractures, most commonly to the foot or spine
• Stress reactions, such as shin splints and medial tibial stress syndrome
• Tendonitis – Achilles, patellar
• Muscle strains of the hip
• Low back pain
• Jumpers knee or patellofemoral syndrome
• Osgood-Schlatter disease (knee)
• Bursitis in the ankle
• Lace bite, an irritation of the tibialis anterior and toe extensor tendon in the ankle
• Ankle sprains and fractures
• Dislocation of the patella or shoulder
• Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscal tears
• Head injury and concussion
• Labral tears of the hip
The amount of training can contribute to injury in skaters. A competitive figure skater can spend 2-4 hours per day in on-ice training, plus 1-3 hours per day in off-ice training for up to 11 months of the year.3 Off-ice training includes strength, flexibility, aerobic conditioning, dance and choreography.3
When skaters are on the ice, their ankles are protected by a stiff boot, however this can lead to weakness in ankle muscles. Skaters can be at an increased risk for ankle sprains when they are performing their off-ice training due to this ankle weakness.2,3
Poor boot fit or excessive boot stiffness has been suggested as a factor that can lead to more overuse injury in skaters.1 Excessive stiffness can lead to altered mechanics for absorbing landing forces or can lead to poor alignment with the skater’s body. Poor fit can lead to altered pressures on the foot or ankle causing friction or rubbing.
Types of jumps being performed will affect which leg is the push off leg while the landing leg remains consistent. During training, skaters will practice these jumping skills repetitively, which can contribute to patellofemoral pain or Achilles tendinitis.1 The landing leg was not more frequently affected by overuse conditions, however the landing leg severity was generally worse.1 The landing leg is used for take-off for the loop, flip, and lutz, while the opposite leg is used for take-off for the axel, toe-loop, and salchow jumps.1
• Ensure properly fitting boot.
• Review training schedule to ensure sufficient amount of rest or cross training.
• Participate in off-ice training for flexibility and balance training.
• Listen to your body – pain is a sign something is not right and steps should be taken to determine the cause of pain. Do not try to just push through all pain as this can lead to more severe injuries.
As you can see, figure skaters dedicate themselves to their sport, which can lead to injury. Let’s hope that all of Team USA’s figure skaters shine at the Olympics this year without any injuries holding them back.
If you are a figure skater with concerns about an injury, please find the Athletico closest to you for a complimentary injury screening.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Campanelli V, Piscitelli F, Verardi L, Maillard P, Sbarbati A. Lower Extremity Overuse Conditions Affecting Figure Skaters During Daily Training. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015;3(7):2325967115596517. doi:10.1177/2325967115596517.
2. Okamura S, Wada N, Tazawa M, et al. Injuries and disorders among young ice skaters: relationship with generalized joint laxity and tightness. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine. 2014;5:191-195. doi:10.2147/OAJSM.S63540.
3. Porter EB, Young CC, Niedfeldt MW, Gottschlich LM. Sport-specific injuries and medical problems of figure skaters. WMJ. 2007;106(6):330-4.