Why Doesn’t Figure Skating Require Helmet Use Like Other Sports?

Concussions are a pressing and current issue; many sports organizations are facing pressure from concussion advocates who range from professional athletes, parents, past players, and even just lovers of sports.

The movement wants to protect everyone, especially children, from avoidable brain injuries. Many sports organizations are responding to the demands of concussion advocates. For example, the OMHA (Ontario Minor Hockey Association) forces all bodies on the ice to wear a helmet, including the players, coaches, and Zamboni drivers. Even pick-up hockey players or free family skate participants must comply with such rules, regardless of age or skill.

OMHA and rink policy has even gone so far as to force coaches to sign a waiver stating that they must coach with a helmet, regardless of what level of hockey the coach has played.

Thus, the OMHA and rink associations have made it clear that there is a high risk of brain injury when skating on the ice, and that it is within their duty of care to protect all parties on the ice while skating.

So here is the million dollar question: why don’t figure skaters have to wear helmets?  Figure skating showcases incredible athleticism and is essentially acrobatics on ice. If ice is considered a very unforgiving surface, why is one group of athletes protected while the other is not?

Skate Canada requires skaters to wear a helmet on the ice until they have achieved the necessary control, balance, and comfortability of skating forward and backward. Skaters who have reached such ability are considered to be at ‘Stage 5’. This benchmark is where Skate Canada’s Helmet Policy formally draws its line, no longer forcing skaters to wear a helmet while on the ice.

In doing this, Skate Canada opens the door to questions such as, are we putting our kids and athletes at risk because the sport values “appearance” more than safety and function?

By not forcing its participants to wear helmets like every other athlete is obligated to wear for safety, Skate Canada is suggesting that the aesthetic is valued over safety.

Does this suggest that figure skating is an art and not a sport?

Before you get enraged that I am suggesting that figure skating is a form of dance on skates consider the following:

Certainly, bobsledders cannot choose to go helmet-less, neither can hockey players, nor skiers, or speed skaters. Yet, figure skaters are given a pass?

The simple conclusion is that the traditionalists do not want to get in the way of the beautiful outfits.

I would never question the athleticism that goes into to being a champion figure skater and would never undermine the hard work and commitment that goes into the competitions. But I do question the decision makers who fight to keep the sport helmet-less.

Ultimately, no matter how skilled you are, accidents happen, and ice surfaces can be unpredictable.

I believe that those who have hit their head and suffered a brain injury may have a very legitimate lawsuit against Skate Canada; especially If the brain injury could have been avoided.

Here is the problem, athletes are told that ‘practice makes perfect.’ How many times in practice has a new or experienced figure skater fallen when learning how to spin or jump, let alone complete a perfect triple axel? And within these trial and errors, how many times can the figure skater fall and manage to get up unscathed?

We praise the skaters when they have the resilience and perseverance to power through, but why don’t we equip them as parents and loved ones with the protection of a helmet?

We must ask these difficult questions and have these tough discussions. Why does one group get protection and privilege, while the other doesn’t? What does this say about said parties?

We’d love to hear your feedback! Share your comment on our Facebook page or Instagram feed to get the dialogue going!

Contact us today if you need a tough team that is not afraid to stand up to the big guys. Millars Law is the go-to legal team when you Can’t Afford to Lose.

Contact us at (519) 657-1529 or info@Millarslaw.com


 

By: Melissa Scott and Phillip Millar