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Who knew that when Russia’s figure skating phenom Julia Lipnitskaia, or any other elite skater, launches into a high-velocity spin that they could be injuring their brain?
That was the suggestion recently of Dr. David Wang, a sports medicine expert with the Elite Sports Medicine division of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, in an article that appeared on the NBC Connecticut Website
“I can’t go so far as to say it’s exactly a concussion, but it acts an awful lot like a concussion,” Dr. Wang said.
Wang recently began researching the area in an effort “to prove whether or not this was safe. … I wanted to see where the problems are, and as with baseball pitchers having a pitch count for how many times they can throw, is there a limit to how much someone can be spinning before they’re left with symptoms that don’t go away.”
The article went on to suggest that Dr. Wang has found some spins may be more dangerous than others, such as the layback spin, in which the skater’s head is thrust away from the axis of the body. This subjects the head to greater G forces, according to the article.
“When you go into the spin, you can imagine it’s like a centrifuge,” he said. “You’re pushing the blood into your head. That’s what usually pops the blood vessels in the eyes and forces the blood going into the head, but when you come out of that spin the blood is drawn right back out of the head and it’s a negative G. That’s when someone falls or faints.”
Whether it is merely increased awareness of concussions or a trend toward more head injuries in sports, we can be certain that the word “concussion” will be used in the Winter Olympics more than all the other Olympics combined.
Just last week, the reigning Olympic champion in men’s figure skating, Evan Lysacek, was talking about the prevalence of head injuries in ice skating, describing to media outlet TMZ why figure skating can be “a tough sport.”
Lysacek, who is not competing next month in Sochi because of other injuries, estimated that he has had between 15 to 20 concussions. “Sometimes we fall at 20 miles an hour and your neck just kind of snaps back,” he said.
The United States Figure Skating Association is not sticking its head in the sand about the situation, providing the following link on its Website to coaches and competitors: http://www.usfsa.org/content/Concussion_Education_Information_9-21-13_-_BOD_reviewed_and_final_logo.pdf