Can teens participate in figure skating if they have scoliosis?
The short answer: YES!
One of the most common questions that we receive from parents of teens with scoliosis is… ‘which sports are better or worse for scoliosis?’
Our recommendation is… to encourage your teen to do the sports that they actually like! Any movement is better than no movement, and the research has not yet shown that a particular sport is better or worse for teens with scoliosis.
“Any movement is better
than no movement.”
We have quite a few figure skaters with scoliosis, and at the competitive level they can train up to 20-25 hours per week!
Here are a few thoughts that go through the Physiotherapist’s head when watching your teen’s moves.
- Is the ribcage centered over the pelvis in all phases of this movement? Commonly, teens who have scoliosis show flattening of the thoracic spine due to the vertebral wedging pattern, and this leads to a tendency to arch the back. Often, the pelvis is also tilted forward, so during TSC Physiotherapists guide these athletes to be aware of their ribcage and pelvis in many different positions. This dryland jump technique is crucial to master prior to adding any rotations.
- To jump, skaters need engagement of the quadricep and glute muscles to propel them into the air. When adding a rotation, it’s important to activate the deep core muscles to keep the body in alignment.
- In any single-leg stance, Physiotherapists assess the supporting leg stability. We look at the engagement of the glute muscles to support the hip, and the body’s ability to control the alignment of the knee. Some scoliosis curves present with a pelvis shift to the right (typical 4C or single thoracolumbar) or left (typical 3C), so we take that into consideration when assessing single-leg stability.
- If a skater is having difficulty attaining the proper position, it may be because of a lack of flexibility in some key muscles – the hamstrings, adductors (inner thighs), and hip flexors – in both legs! It can be helpful to perform specific stretches, so getting into the position is less challenging (and less painful).
- In spins where the free leg is held behind them, we’re assessing the joint mobility of the shoulder and the hip to see if there are any limitations. In this camel position to catch (dryland prep for the spin), the skater requires at least 10-15° of hip extension, and full shoulder extension. In right thoracic scoliosis curves, the right shoulder is often positioned more forward, so we can provide shoulder flexibility exercises. Tight hips + tight shoulders = the back having to do more work into extension!
- Figure skating jumps have SO MANY moving parts that happen so fast, that video analysis is often helpful! As the skater is flying across the ice, they need to know where their body is in space (especially where they are in relation to the ice!). This requires sufficient body awareness. As teens go through puberty and grow, they’re still getting used to the new proportions of their body, so Physiotherapists can work on body awareness (aka proprioception) in many ways.
- During flight, the most efficient air position is for the skater to rotate on the axis. When a skater has scoliosis, the curve of the spine may cause a notable asymmetry in the mass of the trunk, thus making tight axial rotation challenging.
- Again, we’re assessing the body’s ability to stabilize during take-off, and launch and find their axis of rotation quickly, then slow momentum, absorb forces, and balance on landing.
As mentioned at the start, we support our figure skating athletes to pursue this amazingly challenging and technical sport.
To support the spine, it’s important to maximize the function of the hips and shoulders, to minimize unnecessary strain or pressure on the back, and The ScoliClinic Physiotherapists would be more than happy to work with your teen to help them reach their figure skating goals.
“Maximize the function of the hips and shoulders
to support the spine”
Do you know a figure skater with scoliosis? Share this article with them, or encourage them to contact us to book an appointment to help them maximize their skills and THRIVE!
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*Massive thank you to Yuan-Qin Leong for teaching the TSC team about a few figure skating basics, and for demonstrating all the drills above.