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Life in Motion

Safe Skating: Preventing Ice Sport Injury

Sports & Exercise

It’s winter sports season again! Figure skaters, hockey players, and recreational skaters are all ready to tie on their skates and enjoy the ice. But before you hop on the rink, check out advice from orthopedic surgeon Jeffrey Zilberfarb, MD, on staying safe during ice sports. From falls to frostbite, you’ll want to keep yourself protected.

Make sure the rink is safe to skate on.

  • If you’re skating on an outdoor rink, the ice should be clear and solid and at least 4 inches thick. If it’s less than two inches thick, stay off!
  • Indoor and outdoor rinks should be free of holes or chips. If you’re indoors, ask a rink manager to have the Zamboni go over the ice; if outdoors, flood and smooth over the chips. If you can’t fix holes immediately, place a cone over them so that skaters know to avoid the area.
  • Clear off debris like broken sticks from the ice so that nobody trips over them.

Warm up and stretch properly.
Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are more susceptible to injury, so it is important that you stretch and warm up before hitting the ice.

  • For warm ups, try jumping jacks or running or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Don’t skimp on stretching. After warming up, you’ll want to do some dynamic stretching.

Be prepared to fall.

  • If you’ve never skated before, learn how to stop and fall before you get on the ice.
  • Try to relax your body when you fall—you’re more likely to get hurt if your body is stiff.
  • Don’t use your hands to break your fall, as doing so could lead to wrist injury.
  • If you anticipate that you are about to fall, bend your knees into a squat position so that your center of gravity is lower to the ground.
  • If you’re falling backwards, tuck your chin in. The goal is to keep your head protected. Try to land on your bottom first.
  • If you’ve fallen, keep your hands and legs close to your body and away from skaters passing by so you don’t trip them or get hurt by their blades. Get up quickly by moving onto your hands and knees, shifting into a kneeling position, and lifting yourself up.

Dress appropriately.

  • Avoid frostbite by wearing warm clothes, hats, and gloves. Skates should fit snugly to avoid blisters, falls, and frostbite!
  • Wear protective gear in case you fall. A helmet will help protect your head, and elbow pads, knee pads, and wrist guards can also help ensure your safety.
  • Have your blades professionally sharpened at the start of the season.

Enjoy a hot chocolate or tea afterwards to stay warm, and have a fun and safe time on the ice!

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