Figure skating causing heel pain

Today, figure skaters face two challenges. The first? So much controversy, as scandals keep popping up within the US and international skating community. The second? Injuries, which aren't a new problem. But have become more common as athletes take on more triple and quadruple jumps.

Today, I want to dive into both topics. We'll talk controversy because it's fun and fascinating. Then, we'll look at figure skating injuries. Because, while I can't stop skating scandals, I can help prevent and treat figure skating injuries of the foot and ankle.

Scandal Rocks the Figure Skating World

At the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, lots of people were talking about figure skaters. More specifically, they were discussing Kamila Valieva, a 15-year-old athlete from Russia. She came into the n Beijing Games as a frontrunner, having crushed her competition at the 2022 European Championships. Sure enough, she helped her fellow Russian skaters win the Olympic team event. But then? She tested positive for a banned substance: a kind of heart medication that can enhance performance. 

Doping and Skating: A Bad Combination

Soon, her test results went public. And Valieva got a provisional suspension from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). Now, here's where things get weird.

One day later, RUSADA's Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee un-suspended her. Then, the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) allowed her to keep competing in the Olympics! And they made that decision in spite of complaints from many other agencies.

Enter the women's indivdual skating competition. After the short program, Valieva had the highest score. Entering the free skating competition, she was the front runner. But she fell many times during the program, dropping her to a fourth-place finish. This saved the Olympics from an embarrassing situation, since Valieva's doping scandal meant she couldn't have been part of a podium celebration, even if she medaled.

Now, from where I'm standing, it seems that controversy is one of the inherent dangers of this Olympic sport. (Hello, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.) But there’s another serious issue athletes like Valieva have to contend with. And that's the danger of injuries.

Common Figure Skating Injuries

While exciting, figure skating can be dangerous. Anytime you're jumping and twirling high above a hard surface, you may fall. And, when you do? You're at risk for injuries such as foot and ankle sprains and fractures.

And that's not all. Figure skaters are some of the hardest-working athletes I know. They train every day, and they train for hours, often repeating the same move again and again, until it's perfected. Now, that's great for nailing a triple salchow. But it's not great for your tendons or foot and ankle bones.

Why is that the case? When you put pressure on the same body structures daily, you increase your risk for overuse injuries. And that's why I see many figure skaters with concerns such as stress fractures, Achilles tendinitis or the heel pain of plantar fasciitis.

So, those are the sports injuries most figure skaters know to worry about. But, sadly, I'm STILL not done. Because here's a problem you need to think about when you're spending lots of time figure skating: you're more likely to develop heel spurs.

What is a heel spur? patient clutching heel spur

A heel spur is a bone spur that forms at the base of your heel bone. And a bone spur is a bump caused by abnormal bone growth. What causes your body to form heel spurs?

These bony growths form under pressure. When we're talking about a heel spur, that pressure can come from a few different areas. It could be due to tension in the plantar fascia and Achilles tendons. Under pressure, those forces can cause an injury beneath the surface of the bone. And that can stimulate the growth of new bone in the direction of the tension. (In other words, it could create a heel spur.)

But why is this problem so common for skaters? Well, figure skaters are particularly prone to developing heel spurs because they wear stiff boots. Plus, by the very nature of the sport, they place repeated impact on their heels and tendons.

The result? If you're not wearing an ice skate that fits perfectly, or if you fail to properly stretch your muscles before or after skating, you're putting pressure on your heels. And that may be laying the path to developing a painful heel spur.

Preventing Figure Skating Injuries

We can't keep figure skaters from falling. So it may not be possible to prevent every time of sport-related injury. But when it comes to overuse injuries, you can prevent many complications.

First, try to include rest days in your training schedule. If that's not possible, make sure you cross train, so you can build up supportive muscles and take some pressure off the ones you use to jump and spin. Finally, make sure your boots are fitted well. Include an athletic orthotic if you wear orthotics in your land shoes. And stop training at the first sign of pain, staying off the ice until we clear you for athletic activity.

Treating Heel Spurs in Houston, TX

Now you've got a better idea of how to prevent figure skating injuries. But what about heel spurs? If you've already got them, how can you find pain relief? Here's some good news for you!

When it comes to treating heel spurs, we only need to perform corrective surgery in about 5% of the cases we see in our Houston podiatrist office. Instead, we offer patients plenty of non-surgical treatment options. And these include anti-inflammatory medications (that aren't banned substances.) We also suggest custom orthotics, strapping, cortisone injections and physical therapy.

We hope you aren't worried about the scandals of figure skating. But if you are worried that a skating injury or heel spur is interfering with your figure skating? Come into the office immediately! Early intervention is the key to preventing long-term complications. And when we're talking about heel spurs? If we begin treatment quickly, we can curb the bone growth before it becomes too large for non-surgical treatments.