Figure skating requires strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, balance, jumping ability, artistic expression, mental strength, and financial resources.
While falls account for many skating injuries, most injuries occur from overuse or improperly fitting skating boots. Many of these injuries are preventable.
The following is an overview of common figure skating injuries and tips of injury prevention from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
|Bunions, Calluses, and Blisters (painful bumps around the foot)|
Use properly fitting skates and avoid lacing too tightly.
Modify skates or use donut-shaped padding for blisters and calluses.
|Malleolar bursitis (swelling of the inner part of the ankle bone)|
Stretch out boots at the sides. Protect the ankles with silicon sleeves, such as Bunga Pads.
Use donut-shaped padding around the bony part of the ankle, not directly over it, to decrease pressure.
Use orthotics or modify boots.
|“Lace bites” (tendon inflammation in the front of the ankle)|
Use more flexible boots, silicon sleeves, or padding on the tongue of the boot.
Add midline lace hooks or alternate lacing to keep tongue in neutral or slightly inward position or to avoid outward movement of the tongue.
Rebuild boot tongue of aging skates.
|Retrocalcaneal bursitis (swelling of the fluid-filled sac at the back of the heel bone)|
Select a boot that is narrow enough in the heel to prevent excessive movement of the heel.
Change fit of boot by using padding to narrow the heel.
|Sesamoiditis (pain under the base of the great toe)|
Put pads under the forefoot to ease the pressure of impact.
Avoid excessive jumping.
May need medical evaluation to rule out high risk stress fracture.
|Achilles tendonitis (inflammation in the tendon about the back of the ankle/heel)|
Avoid excessive jumping, particularly during off-ice practice.
Avoid overly stiff boots.
Modify boots to decrease pressure against the Achilles tendon.
Regular calf and Achilles stretching and strengthening exercises.
|Shin splints |
(pain along the shins)
Orthotics or modification of boots to correct pronation.
Ensure proper blade placement to prevent the skate from leaning inward.
Pad boot top on inner side of the ankle to relieve pressure.
Calf stretching and strengthening exercises and decreasing high-impact activities can also help.
|Stress fractures of lower leg|
Rest period indicated. Timeline depends on the type of stress fracture.
Decrease high-impact activities, particularly jumps.
Correct pronation with an orthotic.
Make sure boots have enough upper support and have not worn out.
Tape or brace ankles, particularly during off-ice training.
Previous ankle sprains need to be completely healed to lower the risk of re-injury.
|Skin irritation |
or thickening at
the back of the
Use padding or silicone sleeves.
Modify skates to include a soft, closed cell foam material to replace a portion of the top of the back of the boot.
|Jumpers Knee (patellar tendonitis)|
Limit high-impact activities.
Stretching and strengthening program of the thigh/hip/core muscles may prevent injury.
|Spondylolysis (stress fracture in the lower spine)|
Rest period indicated. Timeline depends on the nature of the injury.
Limit repetitive arching of the spine, hard landings, and high-impact activities.
Male pair skaters should avoid poor lifting techniques.
Core strengthening and low-back exercises may prevent injury.
How can you prevent ice skating injuries?
- Participate in off-ice workouts that develop flexibility and strength. Focus on core stability so you can stay strong on your skates.
- Remember to warm up AND cool down after a skating session. Focus on dynamic stretching and strengthening exercises during warm-up and static stretching for the cool down.
- Make sure your skates fit properly and are broken in. When boots are too stiff, your motion is limited, putting stress on the ankle, knee, hip and back.
- Make sure your skates are sharp, but not too sharp: sharp skates have a tendency to pull rather than glide, which may lead to injuries with inexperienced skaters.
- Check the ice for chips, bumps and divots that can lead to slips, falls and injuries.
- When learning new moves, limit the number of repetitions. Hard landings put tremendous pressure on the body, and reducing the number of repetitions of high-impact landings may prevent injury.
- Remember that it can take years of training and practice to execute complex moves safely. Match the move to your skill level.
- Overuse injuries occur when skaters train too much, skate with pain and don’t leave adequate time for rest and recovery. If you’re in pain, stop skating. Try rest, ice, compression and elevation to deal with strains and soreness. If pain persists, seek treatment.