Maybe it isn't all in your
head. There just might be a physical reason why those inside
edges are so painful! Dr. Allen Selner,
Chairman of the USAC/RS Sports Medicine Department and noted
podiatrist/sports medicine specialist, joined forces with Mike
and Darcy Fleming, former amateur champions who are currently
teaching and operating Skateland in Northridge, California.
Together they've made a study of the unique problems of figure
skaters, and prepared this report of what they've learned so
With the popularity of competitive roller skating and the
tremendous interest in sports medicine, we began to take a
critical look at the physical problems of amateur roller skaters.
Two and a half years ago, while watching a local southern
California television talk show, we happened to see a segment
about lower leg problems in children. Dr. Allen Selner was
the guest, and he spent a great deal of time discussing many
of the foot and knee problems that seem to be prevalent among
our figure skaters. What really caught our attention was the
discussion involving "knock knees" and knee pain.
Dr. Selner seemed to have many ideas and solutions that we
had never even considered, so we immediately had one of our
more experienced skaters call Dr. Selner for a consultation
appointment. That single appointment generated such tremendous
interest in both Dr. Selner and ourselves that we met soon
afterward to discuss the range of problems that could be corrected
through basic podiatry and bio-mechanical techniques.
Since that time we have exchanged enormous amounts of information
about our respective occupations and have been able to come
up with answers for some of the problems that have been plaguing
skaters for years.
We discovered that it is not enough to adjust trucks, move
boot placement on the plates, or suggest stiff boots for skater
who have problems - though these methods can be part of the
answer. We found that individual variations in body structure
play a key role in the evaluation and correction of many skaters'
For example, a large percentage of figure skaters have difficulty
executing inner forward and inner back edges for an extended
length of time. What generally occurs is a distortion of the
body position due to excessive strain on the inside of the
knee and ankle. To compensate for this stress, the skater usually
lifts the free hip excessively, which than forces the upper
body outside of the circle on any inner edge. Because of this
poor body position, many other errors are likely to occur while
executing turns and take offs. Upon observing this situation,
a teacher generally turns to the standard remedies (moving
the plate, arch supports, tightly laced stiff boots, etc.).
Because the problems are actually more complex, these standard
remedies often have limited success.
A classic example of this is the flat footed figure skater.
(The photo above shows flat feet with Pronation.)
With a flat-footed skater, several things come into play.
While executing an inside edge the foot begins to flatten and
roll in. This is called pronation. The knee then follows and "caves
in" additionally. This series of problems leads to excessive
knee and ankle strain. A skater trying to put continual pressure
on the inside edges will have extreme difficulty, as the foot
is in an already over-extended position. Skaters trying to
do figures with (flat and or pronating arches) have difficulty
executing accurate take offs, poor edge quality during turns,
subcurving, poor changes of edge, and numerous other errors.
In extreme cases (especially if the skater has poor momentum),
the skater may actually fall off the edge and be unable to
complete the figure. Many teachers than ask their skater to
increase the speed of the figure, hoping that centrifugal force
will hold the skater upright. However the skater inevitably
slows down and encounters numerous difficulties.
These problems are all the direct result of the poor knee
and foot positioning. Therefore the solution lies in aligning
the foot, which secondarily aligns the knee and leg. This is
accomplished most accurately with an orthotic device. An orthotic
device used for skating is analagous to using glasses to correct
poor vision. A person with poor eyesight acquires a custom
made set of refracted lenses to obtain 20/20 vision. A person
with poor foot and leg position can acquire a custom made set
of orthotics to align his legs in a "20/20" like
position. With an accurately constructed pair of orthotics,
stability is increased, and most abnormal motion is reduced.
Coaches should be aware that these problems can occur in any
age skater. The degree of the problem may vary with the age
of the skater, but the skater cannot "grow out" of
the problem. The problem is structure and alignment and it
can be corrected.
If you feel that some of your difficulties in figure skating
can be traced to one of these symptoms, you should think about
having an examination by a sports medicine podiatrist. To find
one, call the Podiatry (or D.P.M.) Society in your area. Ask
them to recommend one of their members who specialize in sports
medicine. You may find that even this specialist doesn't know
a great deal about the unique physiological demands of roller
skating so be cautious about any recommendations made, and
encourage your podiatrist to contact Dr. Allen Selner with
any questions or problems. (Dr. Selner, as Chairman of the
Sports Medicine Department, can be reached through the USAC/RS
National Office.) Your visit with a sports medicine podiatrist
may result in an orthotic device for you to wear inside your
skates, causing a big improvement in your ability to control
your foot and leg position during figure skating.
These custom made orthotic devices should not, however, be
regarded as a panacea for all the ills that befall the figure
skater. They aid the skaters who have physical problems by
improving their body mechanics, thus allowing them to compete
on an even level with skaters who have naturally good body
structure. Becoming a champion still requires hard work and
-- Skate Magazine 1981
A note about Harlick and Co.
For over 30 years Harlick and Co. has recognized the need
for corrective devices in skating to neutralize body position
in skaters with our Inside Wedge Corrections and with our Orthotics.
Check our special options price
lists for corrective devices
provided by Harlick and Co.