This article is from the Recreational Figure Skating FAQ, by Karen Bryden with numerous contributions by others.
Figures is the oldest of the formal skating disciplines. Basic figures
consist of executing various predefined patterns, edges and turns on
circles grouped in a two-lobed (figure-8) or three-lobed (serpentine)
patterns. Practicing figures yields an understanding of how body and
blade interact that is difficult to learn at typical dance or
freeskate speeds. Figures helps teach body control, focus and the
execution of clean turns and edges. Figures can be a very relaxing and
While figures clearly addresses skating fundamentals, there was much
controversy about whether working on school figures is the best or
most expeditious way for the dance or freestyle skaters to learn these
elements. In the end, figures were officially abandoned (the high cost
of figure sessions probably also played a part) and few instructors
teach them now (although some will be pleased to if you want to learn
In the US, the current "Moves in the Field" for freestyle skaters are
an attempt to combine the discipline and emphasis on quality of
figures, with moves and sequences more like those encountered in
freestyle or dance skating. In Canada, "Skating Skills", have replaced
figures. Skating Skills involves performing certain edges and turns to
music (sort of a combination of ice dancing and figures). Skating
Skills tests correspond with the figures so that those who have passed
figure tests can skip the first few Skating Skills.
Many of the injuries sustained while skating happen as the result of a
fall. Of those, the most common by far and easiest to deal with is a
bruised ego. Don't worry, everyone who has ever skated has fallen.
They've fallen because they forgot to take their blade guards off.
They've fallen by just shifting their weight while standing still.
They've even fallen holding on to the rail. As one pro once said,
"There isn't a fall I haven't perfected."
The second most common injury is a bruised body. Bruises very rarely
result in complications, although if you keep on falling the same spot
you may think about getting padding or similar protective equipment.
Occasionally a fall can result in a more serious injury. In these
cases, the standard treatment is RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression,
Elevation) and a compulsory visit to the doctor if the pain is intense
or you suspect a fracture.With some luck, the injury will not keep you
off the ice during the whole or part of the recovery period, but be
cautious and do not do things that might aggravate the injury. Pain is
usually a good indicator that you are overstepping the boundaries. If
doing something causes pain or a worsening of the pain, don't do it!
In addition to accidental injuries, skating can, under certain
conditions, cause or aggravate overuse injuries.