by Pat Stanziano, MPT, Hons BSc Kin
I’m going to preface this blog by saying that I’m “a football guy”. I played university ball. I coached at the rep varsity level. I’ve been the team therapist. Now, I’m currently a level 3 referee with the Lakeshore Football Officials Association. Sundays in the Fall are all about watching my Buffalo Bills, whether it’s at home on my couch, or in a stadium seat at New Era Field (formerly The “Ralph”, and before that Rich Stadium). When the season is over, I feel an emptiness inside. Football has to be the longest off-season; sheesh! I countdown the days to the college draft, and then to the OTAs, minicamp, training camp, pre-season, and then finally (FINALLY!!) the opening of the regular season just after Labour Day.
But now I’m going to let you in on a little secret that not many people know. Way back in 1985 and 1986, before I became “a football guy”, my parents had me in the CanSkate Program at Garden City Arena in St. Catharines, probably with aspirations of me becoming the next Toller Cranston or Brian Orser. But little did they know, bless their heart, that after two seasons of wearing hand-me-down hockey skates, my feet hurting like crazy, and me bumbling around the ice, that it was not meant to be. My figure skating career fizzled, really, before it even had a chance to take off. Happily though, watching figure skating with my parents, became a thing well into my teen years, even as my football prowess was coming into form. Canadian Championships, World Championships, and Olympic Games became the norm in our rec room every season.
I can’t say that my parents were sports people per se, but they knew that physical activity was important. They watched me skate, swim, and do martial arts at a young age. But they never understood why 11 men would butt heads and pile on top of each other every few seconds; and why in a sport called football, rarely did the players use their feet. They, reluctantly, allowed me to play; but they never saw me play in a game. At least we still had our moments two, sometimes three times per year in front of the fire watching the likes of Orser, Browning, and Stojko; Manley and Chouinard; Benning/Johnston and Brasseur/Eisler; Wilson/McAll and Bourne/Kratz.
Fast forward to 2010 and my pursuit to attain my “sport physiotherapist” designation, I volunteered for my first figure skating event as part of the host medical team – the 2010 BMO Skate Canada East-West Challenge. This opportunity snowballed into 9 host medical volunteer assignments, highlighted by 5 international events (including the 2013 ISU World Figure Skating Championships), 3 Chief Therapist assignments, and 4 international assignments as part of the integrated support team for Skate Canada. My parents, you know, are very proud!
Figure skating is an extremely difficult sport that requires a combination of grace, artistry, flexibility, speed, and power. To boot, they have to be some of the toughest athletes that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. But it is a sport that has some issues, that stretch beyond judging scandals and drama. The demands of the sport require that serious skaters participate all year round to master increasingly difficult technical components. Particularly in the younger skaters, this single sport specialization results in overuse injuries at a frequency of about 50% (and those are only the reported cases). Furthermore in a sport that emphasizes a small body size and shape, girls and women have high risk of being affected by the Female Athlete Triad, a syndrome of the interrelated components of disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis. We look to tackle these couple of issues, and hopefully some more, in upcoming blogs and offer some sensible solutions to the members of our community. Figure skaters push the limits of what is humanly possible, while making their movements look easy. That is the appeal of the sport, and not something that I take for granted . . . nope, not this football *cough* figure skating guy.