Saturday, March 30, 2013

Figure Skaters and motion sickness--is Dramamine a good idea or not?

Skaters who are determined to climb the free style skill ladder sooner or later encounter two foot and single foot spins.  Most beginning spinners, myself included, can only practice spins for a limited number of episodes before becoming slightly or in some cases violently motion sick.  The commonly accepted notion is that one becomes habituated to these cycles of unusual vestibular stimulation and over time adapts to the point of being able to do a rapid spin and immediately after finishing, carry on with another element requiring good balance and timing, for example a jump, without requiring time to "clear" one's head.  Below are a couple of abstracts from research articles which indeed strongly suggest that free stylers in fact do adapt.  So if you're currently suffering, hang in there! 

As an aside, can anyone comment on the efficacy of taking over the counter motion sickness drugs such as Dramamine prior to practicing spins?  It and other OTC remedies have a long history in dealing with the off vertical axis rotational stimulation produced during episodes of other types of motion sickness such as car sickness or sea sickness.  Would they work for figure skaters doing spins?

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008 Dec;104(6):1031-7. doi: 10.1007/s00421-008-0859-7. Epub 2008 Aug 30.

Vestibulo-ocular reflex and motion sickness in figure skaters.


UPRES-EA 3917 Mobilités: Cognition et Temporalité, Faculté de médecine, Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, 14032 Caen Cedex, France.


In order to determine the effect of figure skating on the functional plasticity of the vestibular system, we quantified vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) and motion sickness (MS) intensity in 11 female figure skaters and 11 matched control subjects. Vestibular stimulation consisted of three cycles of sinusoidal rotation (0.025 Hz, +/-60 degrees /s) and two velocity steps of 60 degrees /s (acceleration 60 degrees /s(2)). Nauseogenic stimulation consisted of a constant velocity (60 degrees /s) off vertical axis rotation (OVAR) using a 15 degrees tilt angle. Subjective sickness symptoms were rated immediately after OVAR with the Pensacola diagnostic index. During sinusoidal stimulations, the skaters' VOR, as compared with that of the controls, demonstrates a gain that is 27% lower (0.44 +/- 0.12 vs. 0.58 +/- 0.10; P < 0.01) and a phase advance (10 +/- 12 degrees vs. -0.3 +/- 6.4 degrees ; P < 0.05). During velocity steps, the VOR gain is 32% lower among the skaters (0.52 +/- 0.14 vs. 0.71 +/- 0.12; P < 0.01), but there is no difference in time constant (10.8 +/- 1.8 s vs. 10.5 +/- 2.7 s; P = 0.78). Nauseogenic stimulation evokes significantly less MS in figure skaters than in control subjects (2.8 +/- 2.8 vs. 16.2 +/- 13.7; P < 0.01). Quantitative alterations in VOR parameters observed in figure skaters probably result from vestibular habituation induced by repeated unusual stimulations when practicing figure skating.

Neuroreport. 2008 Mar 26;19(5):565-8. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e3282f9427e.

Are otolithic inputs interpreted better in figure skaters?


EA 3917 Attention, Orientation et Fonctions Exécutives, Universite of Caen, 14032 Caen Cedex, France.


The aim of this study was to investigate whether figure skaters, as individuals who experience intense vestibular stimulation, presented modification of the otolith-ocular reflex. The reflexes of 12 figure skaters were assessed using off vertical axis rotation (OVAR). Horizontal otolith-ocular reflex during OVAR is characterized by two parameters: the eye velocity horizontal modulation, assumed to compensate for perceived lateral linear translation, and the bias, assumed to compensate for the perceived rotation. We observed that skaters presented smaller amplitude of modulation and truly compensatory bias compared with control participants. Thus, the otolithic signal during OVAR seems to be interpreted more as rotation and less as translation or inclination in figure skaters.


  1. I know from experience that of which you speak, and thanks for the journal refs BTW. Trust me you do adapt over time. This will make you laugh George, but I get seasick watching a boat tied to the dock!

    Every time I up my game by working on my spins to either spin faster or in a different position (to gain a level in competition) I am nauseous for the rest of the day. But it does go away relatively quickly if you keep working at it.

    Dramamine just makes you dopey and messes with your reflexes (that's why they tell you not to operate heavy equipment....130 lbs of me on skates qualifies as heavy equipment)

    1. Dopey on skates--in my case, as long as I didn't crash into anyone, no one would know the difference! But, never having taken Dramamine I was curious about the side effects. From my days in the Coast Guard I can comment that one gains and loses and regains tolerance to nauseogenic conditions. After being at sea for 30 or 40 days one could get on with the job in the worst of weather but after being in-port for a month, the first couple days back out to sea everyone took it as easy as they could as they got back their sea legs. For me I guessing that spinning will be like that--do it all the time and I'll adapt. If I then for some reason don't do much spinning (as during the months of May and June when my rink shuts down for annual maintenance) and I'll need to ease back in...