One of the big pieces of news this weekend was Joshua Farris withdrawing from the Grand Prix Series this season because of a concussion he suffered in practice during a fall on a quad toe in July. The other piece of concussion news that was less talked about was World ice dance champion Gabriella Papadakis, who got a concussion during practice and has subsequently dealt with complications from the injury.
Farris was originally slated to debut his season at Skate Canada in a few weeks, but withdrew and was replaced by Timothy Dolensky as a result of the concussion. It also explains why Farris was not in any of the photos at Champs Camp last month, which made skating fans reach for speculations. There is currently no set timetable for his return to practice.
Papadakis, one half of the current World ice dance champions, and Guillaume Cizeron are still on the roster at Trophee Eric Bompard in November, but the issues she has had since the injury have hampered her return to training as well. According to the AFP, the symptoms from her concussion were as serious as “panic attacks, depression, memory loss, and dyslexia,” and she has had to undergo treatment since her fall in August.
The skating world has had sprinklings of concussions in the past year, most publicly with the collision between Han Yan and Yuzuru Hanyu at Cup of China last year. U.S. pairs skater Dee Dee Leng hit her head in practice earlier this year and also had a concussion – she and partner Simon Shnapir subsequently split when Shnapir opted to retire from skating.
Head injuries in figure skating are not as uncommon as one may think. This is not isolated to high-level skaters who train quads. When you combine the unpredictability of falls and the unforgiving nature of ice, it’s easy to imagine that falls that impact the head are more than just a possibility.
It’s important for coaches to understand that falls that have head impact should not follow the normal procedures. Yan and Hanyu both returned to the ice soon – and many may say, way too soon – after their injuries. Hanyu actually competed 30 minutes after the collision with a head bandage. He and coach Brian Orser noted after the competition that he did not suffer from a concussion. And at Yan’s next competition just a couple of weeks later, he competed looking completely disoriented on the ice. Even Papadakis’ coaches failed to take the kinds of precautions that you would see in other sports, particularly American football, and just suggested that she go home instead of seek treatment.
Let’s hope these incidents are shedding light on the potential seriousness of these injuries. No, we don’t need helmets in figure skating, but coaches and skaters alike need to be cognizant of the potential ramifications and act accordingly.