Skaters Recovery After Injury – Every Skaters Dilemma

To recover from a figure skating injury takes a lot of patience because if you are not ready you can quickly relapse. Figure skating is a very demanding and grueling sport both for professional and recreational purposes; you have to be agile and on your toes every time to prevent any unwanted incident to happen. The maneuvers, jumps, and spins require an exceptional amount of skill and precision; even a small error in judgment and miscalculation can be lethal!

Therefore, figure skaters are more susceptible to major and minor injuries. And it can happen to anyone whether an elite skater or a minor. So, it is key that every skater should know about the common injuries on the rink, their prevention, and the process to recover from an injury. 

For most figure skaters the recovery period is even more difficult than the actual impact because first, they hunger to go back on the ice as soon as possible, and second, the initial few days after an injury is very painful. So, it is hugely necessary to follow the proper procedure for recovering from an injury. Sometimes, athletes carry on injured to skate longer but make themselves worse by not following the plan. Let’s discuss how to recover from different types of injuries a skater can endure.

Signs of ‘Overuse’ Figure Skating Injuries                               

There are two types of injuries that figure skaters are prone to suffer, one of which is the overuse. This type of injury is caused due to excessive training, repeated strain on a particular part of the body. Figure skaters practice around 5 to 6 hours a day, putting a lot of stress on ankles and metatarsals without an adequate amount of rest. The least it can cause is the calluses around the foot and ankle.

Achilles tendinitis can also be caused by repeated strain on Achilles tendons which is a band of tissues that connects calf muscle from the lower end of the leg to the heel. In overuse injuries, the most common injury is a stress fracture. It does not occur due to a sudden shock, but it happens after continuous stress that gradually becomes a fracture. The majority of injuries that occur in figure skating are stress fractures mainly on the metatarsals, navicular, fibula, and shin bone.

Stiff Boots

Apart from excessive training, there is another contributing factor that can cause a stress fracture; stiff boots. If you train regularly and have a very hardcore and strenuous routine (like the Russians skaters), then your skates must be customised according to your foot and must be of very high quality. Your skates must have proper cushioning otherwise, they will not provide shock absorption. Rigid boots can limit your movement especially ankle dorsiflexion that eventually causes extraordinary strain on metatarsals and can cause a stress fracture.

Another, less dangerous, overuse injury is lace bites. It is, again, caused by stiff skate’s tongue or skate laces. It results in redness in the front part of the ankle, swelling, and pain when touched. It also happens when you tie the laces of your skates too high or too tight. This injury does not happen due to a sudden shock, but it builds up over time and caused by repetitive pressure upon the front part of the ankles by a rigid boot tongue or laces. 

Repetitive knee flexion can also cause the injury that results in mild and severe knee pain. It can cause patellar tendonitis which is an injury in the tendon that connects your kneecap to the shinbone. 

How To Recover From An Overuse Skating Injury

Most overuse injuries are caused due to excessive training and bad selection of boot. So, what you need is an appropriate amount of rest to make sure all your pain and swell dissipate. And you need to upgrade your skates right away. If there are is prominent bruising and swelling, you can follow the traditional R.I.C.E method to treat a minor muscle injury – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

It starts with rest as it is clearly in need. Even for minor injuries where you feel you can skate with a little pain, it is necessary that you take proper rest before getting into the training session. It will help to stop the injury to spread and will give your muscle the appropriate time to heal itself.

The second part is icing the injured part. This will massively help in reducing the pain when applied to the first 48 hours of the injury. It will help to decrease the blood flow to the injured part hence, it will relieve the pain and will reduce the swelling. You can apply ice packs or you can use crushed ice inside a bag, but avoid exposing your skin directly to the ice. 

The third part of this method is to use a compressive bandage. It will help in reducing the blood flow and will curtail swelling. The compressive bandage also helps in easing the pain by stabilising the affected tissues. We have provided a link here for compressive bandages on Amazon, especially if you are a Prime member, you may get them next day delivery.

The fourth part of the method is elevation. Elevating the injured part above your heart level will help to reduce swelling as the blood will drain away from the injured area. 

How Sudden ‘Acute’ Injuries for Skaters Occur

Acute sports injury is another type of injury caused by a sudden traumatic shock or impact. It can cause various injuries to different parts of the body. The intensity and severity of the injury can be determined by the force of impact. Acute injuries generally occur due to nasty falls on the ice and can cause fractures, sprain, torn muscle, or ligament damage. Naïve skaters experience falls on the ice quite often but they only suffer few bruises here and there. Young and inexperienced skaters usually do not attempt fancy moves therefore, they are less prone to dangerous injuries. However, it does happen and recovery can take months. 

Figure skating jumps and moves require great stability, strength, and flexibility. But even getting all these traits does not guarantee you an injury-free career. The slightest of blunder can cause a horrid injury that can potentially end any skater’s career. When you are landing on a single foot, executing a triple axle jump, you need to have pinpoint accuracy to avoid a fall. When landing you could be putting 12 times bodyweight down through your joints. A fall with these sorts of G’s can cause numerous serious injuries including concussion.

Knee injury is also quite common in figure skating that occurs after a fall. Its severity also depends upon the intensity of the fall. More severe falls can even dislocate the patella and cause patellar misalignment which results in damaging the knee cartilage. Knees can also be injured by twisting force caused by spins and jumps. It mostly affects the anterior cruciate ligament. This is one of the key ligaments that help in stabilising the knee joint.

An authoritative website on sports recovery techniques is Meadowside Osteopathy, who I have used for a knee injury in the past. You can click their treatment page for some insight into strengthening exercises.

Wrists are also not safe in figure skating, many skaters suffer from wrist injuries that include wrist sprain, in which the dorsal radiocarpal ligament tears, or distal radius fractures. 

Another very common acute injury is foot or ankle injury. Anterior ankle impingement, peroneal tendonitis, and high ankle sprain are a few examples of ankle injuries happen in figure skating. All these injuries occur due to bad landing after a jump or moving of foot inside the skate. Some other injuries also include groin strain, hamstring, and muscle strain. 

How To Recover From A Skating Acute Injury

Well, for every major injury in any part of the body will require some rest for the first few days. Immobilising the injured part is crucial for two to three days of the injury; if you feel pain in any movement then restrict it and try to remain on your bed for at least 48 hours. Your body is naturally healing from the blow and if you apply stress, it will set you back. After a few days of rest, you need to gradually reapply motion, keeping in mind the intensity of the blow you have faced. Try to be in contact with your physio regularly in the initial days of your injury. You must do simple exercises that your physio suggests to avoid stiffness in your muscles and joints.

Again for the first 48 to 72 hours, you need to avoid heat and apply ice packs for about 15 to 20 minutes a few times a day. It is crucial to follow the regime as in major acute sports injuries exposing to heat too early in your recovery could be damaging. Ice will relieve the pain and minimize the swelling. After the first two to three days you can now apply a heat pack as it will improve the healing process by increasing the flow of blood. You need to be in contact with your physio to guide you correctly about when you should apply the heat pack and how long for. Every injury is different and it is subjective to how much a person bear things. 

A compressive bandage will help reduce pain even in major acute sports injuries. It is very helpful in the first 2 to 3 days of injury to minimise swelling by curtailing the flow of blood in the injured area. The other important thing in the first few days of your injury is to elevate your injured part from your heart level. This is again to reduce the flow of blood and drain out the blood from the injured part. If you can not elevate the injury above your heart, try to keep it at least at the level of your heart to slow down the blood flow. You may require some medication for reducing the pain that is caused by a major acute injury and your doctor may have prescribed you some painkillers to decrease your pain.

In all this recovery process you need to be on the same page with your physio so that your injury recovers smoothly and it is vital that you do not rush things, yes you want to go to the ice rink as soon as possible, yes you want to feel the ice below your feet. But if you do not give your body proper healing time, it would never recover. It is better to be late back, your few days of desperation can ruin your whole career. Therefore, you need to follow the instructions and be responsive and wise to the situation. Your physio will guide you about the correct time to commence your skating and training, which could include these 5 Best Exercises for Skating.

Recovering from the Psychological Barrier Post Skating Injury

When you are recovering from a major acute injury, both physical and mental recovery is necessary. Sometimes your body recovers from the blow that you have suffered, but you can not come to pass the mental barrier that is caused by the trauma. You must find a way to recover from the mental and psychological scars. Do consult to a good psychologist if you find any distress, discomfort, and mental barrier in resuming your day to day routine. Because when you resume your training and skating you will feel that you do not have the same mind and body coordination. And you will not be the same until you overcome the psychological barrier that is left behind by the injury. 

Some skaters are not ready to take rest when they suffer an injury due to a fall or excessive training. Their training schedule and pressure to be ready for competitions can make them ignore the issue. They carry their injuries with them risking further damage. The repercussions are immense because the more frequently you work on your injury the harder it becomes to solve. Consistently training on the ice with injury will take longer to recover and make your muscles and bones weaker. So it is highly necessary that you take your injuries very seriously and work on them to recover and have a long uninterrupted career.