Short 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 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, padding is only part of the answer. If a speed skater falls and slides into the boards, there are several ways in which injuries from the impact can be prevented and/or 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 boards. Ice should be prepared such that the non-track ice is “rough”. The increased sliding friction will help reduce impact speeds into the boards.
  2. Hit the Boards Properly – Skaters must be coached to fall “properly” into the boards 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 boards/mats 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 Pads the Better – If skaters are going to hit the boards, we want pads between the skaters and the boards. As a sound general principle, the more padding you have, the safer things will be. More padding will absorb more impact energy instead of the skater absorbing that energy. You can achieve this by using thick pads or by doubling-up thinner pads.
  4. Foam Type Matters – There are many pad details that subtly influence safety, but the last major consideration in crash protection is the compressibility of your pads. For pads along the ends of the straightaways, firmer foam is best because you want to bounce off those pads. For the rest of the rink, it’s more complicated. If you only have one layer of pads (say up to 12” thick), they should either be of medium firmness or if you have two layers of foam within the 12” then the front layer should be softer than the back layer. The basic principle is that firmer foams can handle higher energy impacts, but they can also increase the chance of injury if skaters hit them head or feet first. Softer foams, on the other hand, can be dangerous for high energy impacts but they will be safer for most types of low energy impacts. In general, try and have enough pad thickness that you can put softer foam in front and stiffer foam in back (either within one pad, or by using doubled-up pads of different firmnesses). A soft front with a stiffer middle and then a soft back can also be quite effective.

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

Short Track KEF Values