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The toes and bones of figure skater health

U of C researchers launch bone study with skaters

Olympian Kaetlyn Osmand is in for a bone scan as part of the study.

Courtesy Dan Molyneaux

Olympian Kaetlyn Osmand is in for a bone scan as part of the study.

Calgary researchers are studying the impact of toe loops and axels on figure skater’s bones and joints.

The University of Calgary, with the Canadian Sport Institute, are recruiting 18 professional figure skaters to study over a period of two years.

They want to know how doing all those fancy moves on the ice contribute to injury risk for the skaters.

“Time spent on the sidelines is time spent not training,” said researcher Erik Groves. “In order to develop as a high performance, national team athlete, the less time you spend sitting on the sidelines the better.”

Olympians like Kaetlyn Osmand, Patrick Chan and Dylan Moscovitch will come in a few times over the course of the study to have an Xtreme CT scan done of their ankles and wrists. An Xtreme CT is similar to regular CT, except it’s a much higher resolution image.

Studying the ankles is a no-brainer – figure skaters are constantly leaping into the air, and hitting the ground hard (but making it look easy). But as for wrists – it’s not often you see figure skaters doing cartwheels across the ice.

“Wrists are almost a comparison site,” explained researcher Lauren Burt. “Bone health is not directly effect through training.”

In addition to the scans, athletes will also fill out health and food questionnaires, and researchers will collect a full body profile.

One aspect of athleticism the researchers hope to better understand is what amount of training is most affective.

Groves explained that being active helps bone health.

“A key element with athletes is their sport is helping the bones get stronger, but there’s a point of diminishing returns, where if you do too much, you can get a bone-related injury,” he continued. He pointed to stress fractures athletes often get from pushing their bones to hard.

So the big question is, is there an optimal amount of training the athletes should be doing?

By the end of the study, they hope to understand multiple factors surrounding figure skaters, and how they contribute to bone health.

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