Long Track Speed Skating Crash Protection & Prevention

Revised: June 29, 2012

Speed Skating Canada has prepared a specifications and guidelines document to be the primary reference for establishing minimum padding standards for both practice and competitions skating contexts.Please keep in mind that “adequately safe” does not mean “perfectly safe”. No crash protection system will eliminate the risks of getting injured in long track speed skating. However, by following these specifications and guidelines, and by using safe skating behaviours, the probability and severity of the risks will be reduced. Members are always encouraged to exceed minimum standards so that we can provide more than just an “adequately safe” field of play.

Ultimately, to prevent injuries from crashes and/or reduce their severity; crash protection (including pads and/or snowbanks) is only part of the answer. If a long track speed skater falls and slides off the track, there are several ways in which injuries from the impact can be prevented/mitigated:

  1. Reduce Speed Prior to Impact – The longer a skater slides on the ice, the slower the skater will be going when he/she does hit the pads/snowbanks. Ice should be prepared such that the non-track ice is “rough”. The increased sliding friction will help reduce impact speeds into the pads/snowbanks.
  2. Hit the Pads/Snow Properly – Skaters must be coached to fall “properly” into the pads/snowbanks i.e. NOT going in head-first or feet-first. Skaters should do whatever they can (that does not endanger other skaters) to achieve this result. Ideally, skaters should try to hit the pads/snowbanks with as much of their body surface area as possible, to distribute the impact forces. Also, skaters should brace (or stiffen themselves) for the impact. This will also help protect them from various injuries.
  3. The Thicker the Crash Protection the Better – If skaters are going to slide off the track, we want pads/snowbanks between the skaters and any obstructions like trees or poles. As a sound general principle, the more padding/snow you have, the safer things will be. More material will absorb more impact energy instead of the skater absorbing that energy.
  4. Foam/Snow Type Matters – There are many pad/snowbank details that subtly influence safety, but the last major consideration in crash protection is the compressibility of your crash protection. In general, use soft-medium compressibility pads, if you are using pads as they will become stiffer in cold environments. If you are using snow, make sure that you can compress the snow to some extent by pushing into it with one arm. Otherwise, it may be too hard to provide much energy dissipation on impact. The basic principle is that firmer crash protection can handle higher energy impacts, but firmer crash protection can also increase the chance of injury if skaters hit the pads head or feet first. Softer crash protection, on the other hand, can be dangerous for high energy impacts if the soft protection is in front of hard, fixed objects. But soft crash protection will be safer for most types of low energy impacts.

Contact SSC (safety@speedskating.ca) if you wish to discuss your foam choices.

Long Track KEF Values