Figure skating is a competitive sport which requires high levels of expertise and skill in order to execute complex foot maneuvers such as jump landings with much finesse and ease.
Intrinsic and extrinsic factors involving oversized skates, landing impact and increased bodyweight can lead to the gradual development of overuse conditions which affect the lower extremity and performance levels of figure skaters.
Campanelli et al. identified the heel as a major area of concern for the high incidences of calcaneal bursitis and calluses in proximity of the Achilles tendon, prompting suggestions for improvements in the design of the skates’ heel cup.
As noted by the authors, the skating boot has the potential to cause serious anatomical alterations over time due to an abnormal interaction of the foot and ankle with the skate; the use of thick and rigid ice skates limits ankle motion in the sagittal plane decreasing its ability to sufficiently absorb ground reaction forces.
Repetitive high ground reaction forces (GRF) during jump landings have often been cited as contributing factors to foot and ankle injuries in figure skating. This is because the vertical GRF can be six times higher than the bodyweight on landing.
Landing GRFs in figure skaters were explored in detail by Saunders et al. by comparing vertical GRF in freestyle figure skaters and non-skaters for the same barefoot single-leg landing on a force plate from a 20 cm platform.
The authors observed that compared with non-skaters, figure skaters exhibited significantly greater peak ground reaction forces, significantly shorter time to peak GRF and significantly longer time to stabilisation of the GRFs for the same barefoot drop landing.
Skaters were also found to confine their centre of pressure to a significantly smaller mediolateral axis and anterior-posterior range during the landing phase, with the position of the centre of pressure located in the mid to forefoot region.
Based on the findings, the study recommended training programmes and equipment modification that serve to decrease peak ground reaction forces in figure skaters by distributing it over a longer time period.
The prevalence of overuse injuries in the sport can also result from underlying biomechanical discrepancies such as excessive pronation which can predispose a figure skater to injuries of the foot and ankle while training and performing.
While initially, foot postural disparities may not seem to restrict an athlete’s ability to skate, such abnormalities can eventually facilitate the onset of overuse conditions such as repetitive stress syndrome, Achilles tendinitis and medial tibial stress injuries.
A MASS4D® customised orthotic intervention would help in addressing structural problems of the skater’s foot in daily life to eradicate compensatory movements that could further exacerbate pressure on the joints, muscles and tendons of the lower limbs.
By optimally re-distributing pressure in the lower limbs and re-aligning the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the body, MASS4D® foot orthotics can be used as a preventative measure to protect a figure skater against kinetic chain dysfunction and subsequently, lower limb injuries.
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