Ask the Expert: Ice Skating Injuries

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In this week’s installment of Ask the Expert, Dr. Emily Dodwell, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon, answers questions on ice skating injuries.

What causes ice skating injuries?

Ice skating can be a fun winter sport for many children, but the same slippery nature of ice that makes skating possible, can often lead to injury. The most common injury mechanism that occurs in ice skating is a fall. Skates can slip out from underneath the child, can catch in the wrong way, or children can simply lose balance. Another mechanism is collision. Collisions can occur with other skaters when one or more skater is unable to stop themselves, or a skater does not see other skaters sharing the ice. In sports such as hockey, collisions are sometimes intentional even when contact is against the rules of the game. Collisions can also occur with stationary objects such as the boards around an ice rink. Skates do have a sharp edge to them, and some injuries are related to cuts from contact with the skate itself.

What are the most common ice skating injuries?

The most common skating injuries are contusions or bruises, typically to the part of the body that takes the hardest landing during a fall. This is often the knees, the hands and wrists, or the bottom. Fractures can occur from skating, but are less common. The most common ice skating fractures are wrist fractures. A less common but more serious type of injury that can result from a fall on the ice is a head injury/concussion.

How are ice skating injuries treated?

Mild injuries can often be treated with rest, ice, elevation, and an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

More serious injuries should be checked by a doctor. X-rays are often required to determine if a fracture is present. Sprains are typically treated with a short period of rest, modified weight bearing, and then gradual return to activities as the symptoms improve. Fractures are typically treated in a cast, but a removable cast boot or splint can sometimes be employed depending on the nature of the injury. Your orthopedic surgeon will determine the diagnosis and best treatment for your child.

Head injuries should always be checked by a doctor.

What precautions should people take while ice skating?

Due to the risk of head injury, helmets are recommended while ice skating. Other protective gear such as knee pads and wrist splints may add some protection, but cannot guarantee avoidance of injury. Skate trainers and appropriate supervision can give children some extra stability while they are learning to skate. Keeping an eye on who children are sharing the ice with is also important, and children can be removed from the ice if it is overcrowded or reckless skaters are on the ice.

Is there a reason for the recent increase in ice skating injuries?

The likelihood of falling during recreational just for fun skating probably hasn’t changed much in recent years.

Most increases in ice skating injuries are seen in children that skate competitively, either on a hockey team or as a figure skater. Children are spending more time on the ice, are more competitive, start competitions at younger ages, and are often focused on a single sport. Children that skate competitively need to take extra precautions to avoid over-use injuries. These precautions may include modifying or limiting hours of practice, cross training (keeping fit with a variety of activities, not just skating), learning proper techniques, and taking appropriate periods of rest.

Dr. Emily Dodwell is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery’sĀ Lerner Children”s Pavilion. She specializes in general pediatric orthopedic surgery, pediatric trauma, cerebral palsy, and limb deformity correction. Dr. Dodwell treats children of all ages and sees patients with a wide variety of problems including fractures, ligament and tendon injuries, joint dislocations, congenital deformities, cerebral palsy, growth disturbances, and disorders such as osteogenesis imperfecta, Perthes disease, and skeletal dysplasias.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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