The sport of ice figure skating has increasingly become more physically demanding in the past decade. It has been suggested that figure skaters should incorporate off-ice balance and ankle stability exercises into their normal training to potentially increase postural control.
PURPOSE: Our specific aim was to utilize force plate measurements to calculate mean velocity of the center of pressure (MVCOP) and assess the effectiveness of a 6-week neuromuscular training program on postural control in figure skaters. To achieve our aim, we tested the hypothesis that a 6-week neuromuscular training program would enhance postural control in figure skaters.
METHODS: Twenty-six female freestyle figure skaters (age: 14.7±4.5 yr) with a wide range of competition experience (5.4±3.1 yr) were randomly assigned to a neuromuscular training group (n=14) or a control group (n=12). Training consisted of static and dynamic balance exercises on a variety of unstable platforms. Before and after a 6-week neuromuscular training intervention, MVCOP was calculated from force plate measurements for two different 15 second trials (quiet single leg stance, and a single leg jump landing from an 8 inch box).
RESULTS: Participants in the training group attended an average of 88.1±7.8% of their scheduled weekly training sessions. At baseline, age, height, weight, years of competition experience, and hours of weekly on-ice practice were found to have no significant correlation with MVCOP for either single leg stance or jump landing tests. With respect to the single leg stance test, there was a significant decrease in the MVCOP from baseline to post-intervention for the training group (44.0±8.5 mm/s to 40.8±8.2 mm/s) and for the control group (43.5±7.5 mm/s to 40.1±3.6 mm/s) indicating improved postural control (p≤0.05). However, there were no significant differences between groups before or after training for either the single leg stance or jump landing tests. Therefore, any functional improvement was unrelated to the neuromuscular training, but instead was likely a result of modified on-ice training during the summer.
CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that a 6-week neuromuscular training program is not sufficient in length or difficulty to elicit a functional improvement in postural control in figure skaters.