Most injuries I see in my clinic and hear about at the rink are associated with knee pain or knee injury. Sometimes this is due to falls causing acute injuries to the knee such as bruising (or contusions) or more serious injuries like bone fracture or damage to the knee’s soft tissue structures such as ligaments or tendons.
Knee pain also occurs when the patella (kneecap) tracks improperly due to thigh muscle imbalance, causing the underside of the patella to rub against the femur (thigh bone). The majority of knee pain in skaters is chronic due to these muscle imbalances and poor alignment during skating.
For a knee to function properly, a skating athlete needs the following:
- Strength balance of the front and back thigh
- Balance in muscular flexibility of the entire lower extremity
- Properly aligned patella (kneecap)
- Normal mechanics of the foot arch
- Strong core and hip muscles
Issues with any of above bullets can lead to knee pain or injury. Let us take a closer look at muscle strength imbalances for the front and back thigh, as these are the main sources of injury to skaters in my practice.
The hamstrings (back thigh) and quadriceps (front thigh) ideally should have similar strength to support the knee joint. Usually skaters have more quadricep dominance since many of the movements are spent in a bent knee position (crossovers, edges, jumps and spins). Quadricep dominance can cause skaters to be more susceptible to patellar (kneecap) damage and to tendon and ligament strains. For example, A tight, dominant and inflexible quadricep can increase the compression on the patella in a landing position if it is not balanced by other muscles. Weakness in hamstring can lead to posterior knee instability and pain.
Exercises that can be incorporated in a strength training program include single leg dead lifts, bridges on a roller or medicine ball, and hamstring curls.
5focus’ expert physical therapist Sarah Berkshire specializes in treating skaters of all ages and abilities, both Figure and Hockey Skaters. She coaches and competes with the Washington Ice Emeralds Synchronized Skating Organization. Sarah offers 30 minute FREE PT consults specifically tailored for skaters.
Contact us today to schedule or learn more.