Measuring on ice: Researchers create 'smart' ice skating blade

October 20, 2014

An ice skating blade that informs figure skaters of the stresses they are imposing on their joints has been developed by a group of researchers in the US.

The small, lightweight device has been built to measure the force that a figure skater exerts on the ice when performing their repertoire of jumps and spins and could potentially be used by skaters and their trainers to avoid injuries, as well as inform the design of new skating boots.

The instrumented blade has been presented today, 21 October, in IOP Publishing's journal Measurement Science and Technology.

Figure skaters are continually putting their body under stress, practicing up to five days a week, all year round, and performing anywhere between 50 and 100 jumps in each session.

Simulations outside of the ice rink have suggested that skaters exert a force magnitude of up to six times their body weight when taking off and landing from a jump.

Co-author of the research Professor Deborah King, from Ithaca College, said: "Questions have been raised about boot design and how it affects a skater's impact forces, potentially causing injuries. However, very little is known about the actual impact forces on ice during jumping and other figure skating skills.

"This is because on-ice measurements of the forces associated with figure skating are fairly difficult to record due to the complexity of the sport and not wanting to interfere with the skater during their jumps. As such, we decided to develop a method that measures forces directly from the blade."

The blade, created by a group of researchers from Brigham Young University and Ithaca College, is fitted with strain gauges. The strain gauges are attached directly to the stanchions where the blade connects to the boot, and when the stanchions deform due to the force induced by the ice skater, it causes the strain gauges to deform as well.

Once deformed, the electrical resistance of the strain gauge changes--this change is measured by a device called a Wheatstone bridge, and a central control system is used to calculate the overall force that was imparted. The entire measuring device, including a battery, weighs 142 g and fits under the boot space of the blade so that none of the components makes contact with the ice.

The design of the system is unobtrusive and would allow figure skaters to perform their typical repertoires of jumps, spins and footwork without any noticeable interference.

To test the measuring device, the researchers mounted an instrumented blade onto an artificial leg and foot and applied 14 vertical loads between 0 and 236 kg to the leg.

The instrumented blade was then fitted to an experienced skater who was asked to jump from a 20 cm high box onto the floor whilst measurements were taken from the device. These results were then compared with measurements from a different experiment, whereby the skater wore a normal ice skating blade and landed onto a force plate.

"It was encouraging to see that the device performed very well for vertical loads, which is where our initial focus has been, and we were able to replicate the force curves measured from the force plate using the instrumented blade," Professor King continued.

"The blade has been designed to measure horizontal loads, but we are in the process of integrating blade angles into the monitoring process to more accurately record the magnitude of forces during a landing."

From Tuesday 21 October, this paper can be downloaded from
For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or contact with one of the researchers, contact IOP Press Officer, Michael Bishop. For more information on how to use the embargoed material above, please refer to our embargo policy.

IOP Publishing Journalist Area

The IOP Publishing Journalist Area gives journalists access to embargoed press releases, advanced copies of papers, supplementary images and videos. In addition to this, a weekly news digest is uploaded into the Journalist Area every Friday, highlighting a selection of newsworthy papers set to be published in the following week. Login details also give free access to IOPscience, IOP Publishing's journal platform. To apply for a free subscription to this service, please email Michael Bishop, IOP Press Officer,, with your name, organisation, address and a preferred username.

The published version of the paper 'Instrumented figure skating blade for measuring on-ice skating forces' (Acuña S A et al 2014 Meas. Sci. Technol. 25 125901) will be freely available online from Tuesday 21 October. It will be available at

Measurement Science and Technology

Measurement Science and Technology covers all aspects of the theory, practice and application of measurement and sensor technology across the sciences.

IOP Publishing

IOP Publishing provides publications through which leading-edge scientific research is distributed worldwide. Beyond our traditional journals programme, we make high-value scientific information easily accessible through an ever-evolving portfolio of books, community websites, magazines, conference proceedings and a multitude of electronic services.

IOP Publishing is central to the Institute of Physics, a not-for-profit society. Any financial surplus earned by IOP Publishing goes to support science through the activities of the Institute. Go to

Access to Research

Access to Research is an initiative through which the UK public can gain free, walk-in access to a wide range of academic articles and research at their local library. This article is freely available through this initiative. For more information, go to

The Institute of Physics

The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application.

We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications.

In September 2013, we launched our first fundraising campaign. Our campaign, Opportunity Physics, offers you the chance to support the work that we do.

IOP Publishing

Related Ice Articles from Brightsurf:

Ice-binding molecules stop ice growth, act as natural antifreeze
Certain molecules bind tightly to the surface of ice, creating a curved interface that can halt further ice growth.

Ice loss due to warming leads to warming due to ice loss: a vicious circle
The loss of huge ice masses can contribute to the warming that is causing this loss and further risks.

Ice loss likely to continue in Antarctica
A new international study led by Monash University climate scientists has revealed that ice loss in Antarctica persisted for many centuries after it was initiated and is expected to continue.

Ice discharge in the North Pacific set off series of climate events during last ice age
Repeated catastrophic ice discharges from western North America into the North Pacific contributed to, and perhaps triggered, hemispheric-scale changes in the Earth's climate during the last ice age.

Sea ice triggered the Little Ice Age, finds a new study
A new study finds a trigger for the Little Ice Age that cooled Europe from the 1300s through mid-1800s, and supports surprising model results suggesting that under the right conditions sudden climate changes can occur spontaneously, without external forcing.

Antarctica: cracks in the ice
In recent years, the Pine Island Glacier and the Thwaites Glacier on West-Antarctica have been undergoing rapid changes, with potentially major consequences for rising sea levels.

The magnetic history of ice
The history of our planet has been written, among other things, in the periodic reversal of its magnetic poles.

Order out of disorder in ice
We revealed a multiple-step transformation mechanism using state-of-the-art time-resolved in-situ synchrotron x-ray diffraction.

Seasonal sea ice changes hold clues to controlling CO2 levels, ancient ice shows
New research has shed light on the role sea ice plays in managing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

What causes an ice age to end?
Research by an international team helps to resolve some of the mystery of why ice ages end by establishing when they end.

Read More: Ice News and Ice Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to