When she was growing up, Lucinda Ruh was living out her dream as an ice skater, but she never imagined her talent would someday cause her debilitating pain.
“At the worst point, it was devastating. I wasn’t able to do much. I’d wake up and be in bed all day,” said Ruh, 32, a world-class ice skater who was known as the “Queen of Spin.”
Ruh suffers every day from dizziness and memory loss, symptoms of what she believes were undetected concussions going on for years, caused by those spins.
Dr. David Wang, medical director of Elite Sports Medicine at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, is collecting data on whether spinning does in fact contribute to concussions in figure skaters and whether any damage follows these athletes off the ice long after they’ve hung up their skates
“What I’m looking at is, how much force is too much force?” Wang said. “In figure skating, there certainly are those obvious concussions, those people that fall and hit their heads on the ice. But there may be a subtle concussion that has been unrecognized for some time and that's the concussion that may come from spinning.”
Dr. Wang uses a device to measure the force of his skaters’ spins.
So far, he’s measured up to 4 g-forces and said that could be what’s leading to symptoms of dizziness, fainting and burst blood vessels.
Emily McNally is a volunteer in the study.
At 18 years old, she's been skating for more than half of her life and has already begun to exhibit the symptoms that Dr. Wang is now studying.
“When I spin, things go black and there are different things I've noticed when I spin,” she said.
Could spinning, such a critical component of the sport of figure skating, be dangerous?
Dr. Wang says no, but the question is whether there’s a need for rules governing how many spins a skater can do or how much time those spins should take.
“[We may want to] try to draw a line, a safe line, for these young people so they don't train too much at one thing that could cause symptoms,” Dr. Wang said.
It’s a line professionals like Lucinda might have crossed one too many times.