Figure skating is one of the most demanding sports when it comes to the strain it places on the ankles, knees, shins, hips and back. Serious head injuries aren’t unknown, and more than one skater has suffered deep gashes from another’s skates, and sadly the rule changes introduced in 2003 have only made figure skating more dangerous than before.
Prevention Is Better than Cure
If you’re reading this, chances are you don’t want to hear “I told you so,” but this might also be a chance to learn from a recent mistake. In fact, one of the jobs of a good coach is to keep their students from attempting moves they’re not physically ready for. At the same time, a common characteristic of figure skaters who compete successfully is the willingness to push their own boundaries when practicing – sometimes this means taking a spill, which is usually more embarrassing than anything else, and sometimes it means tearing a tendon or worse.
An injury can delay your progress even more than slacking off in training can. For this reason if no other, it pays to be as careful as possible when introducing a new move or combination into your routine, including practicing it off-ice until the movements become a matter of muscle memory.
All the care in the world, however, won’t prevent the occasional injury from happening. When this occurs, it’s extremely important to take the steps that will get you back on the ice as soon as possible.
Watch Your Diet
All athletes should keep the demands they place on their body in mind when they eat. For most, this means getting adequate amounts of carbohydrates, protein and the micronutrients that enable optimum aerobic and muscular performance. Skaters, with the stress they place on their on bones, joints and connective tissue, have a few extra requirements. This is important in normal training, and doubly so when hurt.
A bone fracture takes at least 6 weeks to heal, and much longer before that limb will be as resilient as before. It’s no secret that you have to take in calcium to build bone mass, but not everybody realizes that magnesium and vitamins D and K are needed for your body to actually make the calcium in your diet available. A good quality supplement may be advisable.
Green vegetables, tofu, unboned sardines and of course dairy are all good sources of calcium.
Although taking a full day to prepare a mean isn’t for everyone, boiling bones to make a soup base has significant health benefits. In the first place, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and a whole bunch of useful minerals are all released into the broth, and importantly, in a form that the human body can easily absorb.
Anyone who’s recovering from a skeletal, tendon or joint injury will also benefit from its anti-inflammatory properties, and more significantly the amino acids, collagen and gelatin it contains. All proteins aren’t just for muscle: connective tissue also needs to be nourished to be restored.
Take Your Time in Off-Ice Recovery
However eager you may be to resume serious training, slow and steady progress is always best. Even when the injured part feels fine once more, it’s most likely still weaker than it was and will need time and gentle exercise to regain its former conditioning.
To avoid the risk of re-injury, it’s recommended to work out in ways that simulate skating but don’t offer quite the same level of strain. If one of your leg joints is banged up, whirling around a parking lot on an electric unicycle provides an experience similar to actually skating and allows you to keep the unconscious movements involved in balancing in practice. They’re also useful in daily life and look cool, so it’s worthwhile spending a few hundred bucks if you choose IPS or King Song as brands.
Practicing yoga is also an excellent way to ease your way back into the game. It trains almost exactly those things figure skaters need most: core and limb strength, balance and flexibility, yet is gentle enough not to further strain an injury.
It sucks to feel a sudden pain one day and suddenly be an invalid for several weeks, but that’s also part of figure skating. “Getting back on the horse” before you’re healed will only set you back further, so have some patience, do exercises that won’t aggravate your injury further, and you’ll be at 100% again before you realize.