Ice skating–even if for recreation–can result in injuries with reports showing that medical professionals treat more than 50,000 injuries related to ice skating each year. The sport stresses muscles, joints, and bones, which can lead to both minor and serious injuries. In addition to the risk of muscle strains and tears, skating can cause ankle pain and tendinitis, fractures, and other fall injuries to the wrists, forearms, and knees. Since you may need to see an orthopedist for treatment for pain or injury related to ice skating, it helps to be aware of the types of injuries that can occur as well as what causes them.
Wrist injuries are common since skaters instinctively brace themselves and try to lessen the impact of a fall by stretching out their arms. Unfortunately, falling on hard ice can cause more than bruising. In fact, ice skating increases the risk of a broken wrist. Breaks in the small bone that's located in the wrist behind the thumb is a common type of wrist fracture. Fractures of the radius and ulna, bones in the forearm, also occur.
Triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) is another injury that can occur in the wrist. This cartilage structure–located on the small finger side of the wrist–supports the small carpal bones in the wrist and keeps the radius and ulna stable when you grasp something with your hand or rotate your forearm. Falling on an outstretched hand can cause a tear or other injury to the TFCC. Signs of injury include swelling in the wrist and chronic wrist pain, particularly at the base of the wrist on the small finger side.
A serious blow to the knee from a fall can damage the kneecap. Without proper treatment, misalignment of the kneecap may lead to more serious damage to the knee, particularly to the cartilage that keeps the knee stable.
The twisting and repetitive movements required for spins and jumps, along with the impact of landings, can cause knee damage as well, especially to the ligaments that keep the knee joint in position. Whether pain occurs on the inside of the knee or at the front of the knee determines whether surgery may be required.
Damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can make the knee too weak to support your weight. An orthopedic surgeon may recommend ACL surgery to make your knee more stable again, prevent progressive damage to other parts of the knee, or limit loss of knee function due to injury.
Tendinitis in the ankle, ankle sprains, stress fractures, or a partial or complete bone break can occur as a result of ice skating. Although overuse injuries or injuries from falls can affect either ankle, injuries are more likely to occur on the landing ankle. For instance, you can break your ankle if it gets twisted inward or outward when you fall.
Less serious ankle injuries that occur include pain at the front of the ankle from a tightly laced skate boot. The pressure of a skate boot can also cause bone pain or malleolar bursitis over the bony prominence above the ankle. Wearing properly-fitted skate boots may help prevent the condition.
For more information about these injuries and how to prevent them, talk to an orthopedic surgeon like Joseph P. Spott, DO.