Thursday, October 14, 2010


Above - great example of breaking at the waist by me (not Doug)

Non-skater alert: long, boring, technical skating rant follows … your time may be better spent elsewhere.

Notable skating coach quotes over the years:

• “Don’t break at the waist!”
• “Tuck your butt under!”
• “Don’t stick your butt out!”
• “Stand up straight!”

I have a big skater butt and it does stick out and I also have a swayback which makes it look worse than it is. The swayback probably developed by my body over time to provide additional acetabular coverage to the tops of my naked femurs. Blah blah blah, I’ve said all this before. But I never really connected all the dots in my mind until now.

Outside to outside Mohawks, especially closed Mohawks, have always been challenging for me. I would start to turn and instantly break at the waist, despite superhuman attempts not to. I was then “stuck” and couldn’t turn at all. Because what happens when you break forward at the waist? Well, your hips close up, of course. So if your hips are already closed and you break at the waist there is no way you are going to turn. But in the past somehow finally I was able to learn a way to do them just by sheer force of will and muscling through, although I did bail out a lot when with a partner because in a dance hold I couldn’t maneuver myself into a position to force the turn. I never knew if they were going to work or not.

This caused years and years of frustration for me and coaches who’ve thrown up their hands and said it’s “all in my head.” This is why it took me years to learn one step in the Rocker Foxtrot so I could finally test it, a step that a decent skater like me should be able to do in their sleep and a step that less capable skaters without hip problems can do without even thinking about. Talk about beating yourself up.

Breaking forward was the only way I could find to get my feet together before turning without extreme pain/grinding/popping/locking up in my hip. Not knowing I was dysplastic, I thought this pain was caused by being out of shape and not working hard enough; I also just blamed it on “closed hips.” Although I didn’t realize it at the time, breaking forward was my way of keeping the ball of my femur covered during the turn. If I hadn’t been bent forward the hip joint could have popped out of the socket and probably did a couple of times. This was all pre-surgery. Now post-surgery I am weaker and less able to muscle my way through things so these turns are currently impossible.

Recently Judge L and Coach John both watched me and said “your foot is plenty turned out” and they are right based on what can be seen. This apparent turnout is coming from the knee, not the hip. When I extend the free leg to the back my leg looks turned out almost normally because I fake it from the knee down. But when I bring it in to the T position to turn, the foot may look turned out, but the hip itself is actually turned in and jammed against the acetabular rim. This is painful and feels “stuck” (a word I’ve used to describe these Mohawks since I first learned them back in the dark ages, to which coaches replied, “stretch more” and “work harder” and “don’t break at the waist”).

Now that the dysplasia has been surgically corrected, bringing my free leg in with the foot turned out and not breaking forward at the waist doesn’t force the hip joint out of the socket, but it does force the ball of my hip forward against the front rim of the acetabulum and it grinds to a halt there, thus the “jammed” feeling. Post surgery it’s the same problem with a slightly different cause. It’s not lack of femoral coverage now, but impingement against the newly-oriented acetabulum. Plus, my muscles are trained to do this the “old way.” I hear and feel the crackling and the tendons snapping. My tight psoas tries to pull my pelvis forward against my will. I can feel the pain in the iliac crest, glute, adductors and hip flexors, and as a grinding within the joint itself as the ball hits the rim.

I’ve done this off the ice a lot lately trying to build up my ability. Those muscles that bring the leg in and turn it out and keep my pelvis from tipping were damaged during surgery and have never been used this way before due to years of compensation.

Armed with knowledge, will I be able to re-train my body? There’s no risk of my hip coming out of the socket now. Perhaps I won’t have to bend at the waist if I can re-train my muscles and somehow maneuver the ball of the joint to the side so it doesn’t jam up against the rim of the socket. I don’t know. We’ll see if this German Shepherd can learn a new trick.


Gordon said...

i thought this was really interesting Terri. Good luck!

Katherine said...

Love the description! I break at the waist just taking a normal walking step with my left leg, so I feel your frustration :)
It's great to read another hippies experience skating. I'm getting out there, but still skating with all glute because everything is else is so weak and stretched out. Apparently I've got the opposite problem from all you hippies who end up with tight illiopsoas post-op.
I love to hear about your progress and hipiphanies. Sounds like slow and steady is what I should expect.

HipSk8 said...

K - Yep, it's slow and steady for sure. I was breaking forward at the waist with every step when I first started walking in the pool and then also on land. I think it was just all that time not putting any weight on the leg! Good luck and keep skating, it will help your recovery. Terri