As ice skaters glide across the ice, their motions cause repetitive stresses to the feet and ankles. Skaters must push off with one foot and then the other, and they often stop and start suddenly. These actions can lead to acute or chronic injuries, including ankle sprains, “pump bump” and Achilles tendonitis.
An ankle sprain can occur when a skater catches the edge of the skate blade on the ice, which forces the ankle to roll outward. The stress on the ankle is exaggerated when the blade of the skate raises the foot off the ice. This type of injury typically causes pain and swelling at the injured site, making it difficult to put weight on the affected leg, or to move it. Bruising may occur within a day or so, depending on the severity of the injury.
Initially, ankle sprains should be managed using the principles of RICE (rest, ice compression and elevation). If pain and dysfunction continue, a physical therapist can help you get back out on the ice with treatments to decrease pain and swelling, manual therapy to increase joint play and decrease pain, and instruction in exercises to increase strength and motion.
Pump bump (named for the women’s shoes that most often cause it) can result when poorly fitted boots irritate the back of the heel. The bursa, the fluid filled sac that protects the heel bone, becomes inflamed, which can be quite painful. Conservative treatment of rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication and making boot adjustments is usually all that is necessary.
Achilles tendonitis, normally an overuse injury, can also result from ill-fitting boots, which put increased stress on the tendon. Using soft, plastic foam padding in the ankle area can help prevent this condition.
Before venturing out onto the ice, remember these tips to reduce your risk of injury: Be sure your boots are of adequate quality and fit correctly to help your ankles stay erect; wear simple, warm clothing that is not too restricting; and maintain the flexibility required for skating by warming up with stretches of the lower extremities, including the calves, quadriceps and hamstrings. Whether you’re skating professionally or recreationally, these steps can reduce the likelihood that you’ll suffer injuries on the ice.