ICE Skating (Figure Skating and Speed Skating)

Figure Skating


  • Figure skating is a sport that focuses on a unique combination of athleticism, strength, endurance, gracefulness, and artistry on ice.

  • Today, over 203,000 members and 765 clubs are registered with US Figure Skating.

General Principles


  • Began in the early 1800s; its name was derived from the complicated figures traced on the ice during its early years.

  • Jumps and spins were introduced in the 1860s, with continuing development of more complex moves ever since.

Figure Skating Categories

  • Singles skating: solo skater performing jumps, spins, and connecting steps

  • Pairs skating: a male and female skater performing jumps, spins, and dance elements separately and in tandem along with overhead lifts, throws, and throw jumps

  • Ice dance: a male and female skater performing intricate footwork and deep edges; partners have specific rules about lifts and the amount of time they can separately skate

  • Synchronized skating: team comprising 8–24 skaters moving simultaneously as a group to form various moving patterns; team lifts and certain jumps are permitted

Discussion of Sports-Specific Skills and Other Considerations

  • Majority of figure skaters are females who began skating when 5–8 years old. Competitive careers peak in teens or early 20s.

Biomechanical Principles

  • At the senior level, men routinely perform at least one quadruple jump (4 revolutions), and several women have performed triple axels (3.5 revolutions).

  • Jump landing impact forces can reach five to eight times the skater’s body weight.

  • Skaters can perform upwards of 50 jumps/session, with two to four sessions/day.

Equipment and Safety Issues

  • Figure skates are traditionally composed of leather boots and steel blades. Certain newer skates use synthetic boot materials to decrease weight.

  • Boots

    • For cosmetic reasons, traditionally have an elevated heel; however, this results in increased landing impact forces.

    • Becoming increasingly stiff to accommodate the stress placed on them during triple and quadruple jumps, which may contribute to weaker ankles and poorer proprioception.

    • Often custom-fit; may still fit suboptimally; boot shape makes the use of traditional orthotics difficult and may require special orthotics to be molded into the boot when needed.

  • Figure skating blades have an inside and outside edge. They have a large front toe pick, which is used in jump landings and certain jump takeoffs.

  • Boots are usually replaced every 6–12 months because of breakdown.

  • Several lower extremity overuse injuries arise from interactions between the skater’s body and the skate. Factors contributing to injury include:

    • Boot fit: Up to two-thirds of skaters may have boots that fit inappropriately

    • Tying technique

    • Boot condition

    • Blade mounting

    • Skating technique

Specific Training Issues

  • Typical daily training comprises 2–4 hours of on-ice training and 1–3 hours of off-ice training, which includes strength and flexibility training, dance, conditioning, and choreography.

  • Occurs ≥5 days/week throughout the year

  • Can become all-encompassing to elite skaters and their families; not uncommon for young skaters to move to new cities or opt for home schooling in order to prioritize training.

Unique Environmental and Nutritional Issues

  • Disordered eating is common in figure skaters. Weight and appearance may inappropriately be the primary focus of skaters and coaches over body composition and performance. Contributing factors include:

    • Major role that skater’s appearance plays in judges’ performance evaluation

    • Advantage of lighter body weight when jumping

  • Delayed menarche may result from restrictive eating patterns. This is often perceived as an advantage by skaters because onset of puberty is accompanied by accumulation of additional body mass that must be lifted into the air with each jump in addition to wider hips that contribute to decreased rotational speed.

  • Osteoporosis has not been frequently found among skaters.

  • Screening for nutritional deficiencies (vitamin D, ferritin, etc.) should be considered in this population.

  • Exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) and asthma may be triggered because of exposure to the cold, dry air found in ice rinks in addition to the chemicals used to maintain the ice surface or Zamboni fumes, which can contain air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Common Injuries and Medical Problems

  • Factors contributing to injuries are the boot, training regimen, nutritional practices, environmental factors, and the culture of the sport that rewards high-risk moves and slender body type.

Foot and Ankle Injuries

  • “Lace bite,” or tendonitis of the tibialis anterior and toe extensors, can occur as a result of inappropriate placement of the tongue of the boot ( Fig. 81.1 ). Impact from jump takeoffs and landings can also contribute.

    Figure 81.1, Figure skating injuries.

  • Ankle sprains are common; likely the result of weaker peroneal muscles from wearing stiff skating boots.

  • “Pump bumps,” or Haglund deformity, and Achilles tendonitis can occur with skate boots that inappropriately fit posteriorly (see Fig. 81.1 ).

  • Bursitis (superficial calcaneal, retrocalcaneal, malleolar) can occur from friction from the boot.

  • Calcaneal apophysitis can be seen in skeletally immature skaters.

  • Other common foot issues include inflammation of an accessory tarsal navicular, prominence at the base of the fifth metatarsal, corns, and hammertoes (see Fig. 81.1 ). Most of these problems are treated with modification of the skate boot by locally “punching out” the leather by stretching or use of moleskin or foam/felt donuts to reduce friction or pressure.

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