BYU study shows impact figure skating has on athletes' bodies

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PROVO — There is fascinating research coming from Brigham Young University and the United States Figure Skating Association.

In the past, scientists have studied the impact Olympic sports of ski jumping and aerials have on athletes' bodies. But findings from the figure skating study conducted at Provo's Peaks Ice Arena are compelling.

BYU research skater Jacquelyn Packard makes figure skating look effortless. But beauty, grace and smiles in this sport mask what happens when skaters land after a jump.

Russian great Evgeni Plushenko is the latest example of the results of multiple surgeries. The Olympian was forced to back out of the Sochi Olympic Winter Games last week after reinjuring his back.

“It happens more often than you like to think,” Packard said. “A lot of these skaters are skating in a lot of pain."

BYU researchers asked Packard to wear a new device on her skate that records the compression when she lands a jump. The surprising finding: the force is five to eight times her body weight.

“Skaters do this over and over, maybe 50 times a day — could be more than that; so the impacts and cumulative efforts of those impacts is pretty great,” said Sarah Ridge, associate professor of exercise science at BYU.

Skaters’ injuries take place over time to the back, hips, knees and feet. What Ridge and her research partner, Steven Charles, hope to do is to open the way to safer landing techniques now and for future skaters.

“Little league pitchers have pitch counts to keep their arm, elbow and shoulder safe,” Ridge said. “We may end up with something like jump counts for younger, developing skaters.”

The bottom line for both professors and skaters: fewer injuries means longer careers.


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