ISU Council's Proposal to change Rule 108 - Age Limits for Single & Pair Skating / Ice Dance + ISU Medical Commission's report

Sylvia

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Link to the GSD news & info thread for the ISU Congress, June 6-10, 2022: https://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/threads/isu-congress-elections-2022.109352/

Creating a separate thread for discussing the upcoming ISU Council's proposal to raise the minimum age limit for competing at the Senior (ISU Championships/Olympics):
You can read the full ISU council proposal here: https://www.isu.org/inside-isu/isu-communications/communications/28303-isu-communication-2472/file

It's proposal #22. Starts on p. 17.
From page 18:
...
3. Age Limits for Single & Pair Skating / Ice Dance
a) i) For the Season 2022/23, in International Senior Competitions, ISU Senior Championships and the
Olympic Winter Games, only Skaters may compete who have reached at least the age of fifteen
before July 1 preceding the Events.
ii) For the Season 2023/24, in International Senior Competitions, ISU Senior Championships and the
Olympic Winter Games, only Skaters may compete who have reached at least the age of sixteen
before July 1 preceding the Events.
ii) From the Season 2024/25 onwards, in International Senior Competitions, ISU Senior
Championships and the Olympic Winter Games, only Skaters may compete who have reached at
least the age of seventeen before July 1 preceding the Events.
b) In International Junior Competitions and ISU Junior Championships a Junior is a Skater who has met
the following requirements before July 1 preceding the event:
i) has reached at least the age of thirteen;
ii) has not reached the age of nineteen for Women and Men in singles competition; and
iii) has not reached the age of nineteen for Women and the age of twenty-one for Men in Pair Skating
and Ice Dance competition.
c) In International Novice Competitions a Novice is a Skater who has met the following requirements before
July 1 preceding the competition:
i) Basic Novice - has not reached the age of thirteen;
ii) Intermediate Novice - has not reached the age of fifteen;
iii) Advanced Novice - has reached the age of ten and has not reached the age of fifteen for girls
(Singles/Pairs Skating/Ice Dance) and boys (Singles) and seventeen for boys (Pair Skating/Ice
Dance).

Copied from pages 19-20:

Reason: The ISU Council received the following report from the ISU Medical Commission:

“Competition, training and recovery depend not only on the chronological age but also on the
  • Developmental age (physical, mental, cognitive and emotional maturity)
  • Skeletal age (degrees of ossification of the bone structure).
It is both the developmental and skeletal age that must be considered when reviewing the age limit to enter the Senior category. It is conceivable that allowing under-age athletes to compete may subject them to loads and risks that are thought to be inappropriate for their age, not only physically, but in terms of the psychological and social development of the child. (Reference: K.Kapczuk; Minerva Pediatr; 2017 Oct;69(5):415-426. Elite athletes and pubertal delay.)
Junior athletes need to cope with multiple stressors on their pathways towards elite sport. First of all, they are exposed to high physiological loads caused by training and competitions. Secondly, they normally experience social hassles, demanding and high amounts of school tasks, and potential difficulties relating to their peer groups. Thirdly, they need to participate in competitions and handle competitive stressors. Ultimately, performance enhancements are normally the central concern for ambitious athletes, as athletes themselves and by others are continually evaluating their accomplishments.
The ISU must also consider the image they want to project as Junior and Senior Champions.

Developmental age
Physical

Generally, we know that elite athletes may delay their onset of puberty by an average to 2 years compared to the general population. Genetic disposition, intense physical training (training load), nutritional status, participation in competitive sports and psychological stress during childhood and early adolescence determine athletes’ pubertal timing of development. Athletes that practice, specifically, esthetic sports, are predisposed to a delay in pubertal development.
The growing evidence indicates that energy deficiency, plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of functional hypothalamic hypogonadism in female athletes. Metabolic and psychologic stress activate hypothalamicpituitary-adrenal axis and suppress hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which delays development in female athletes.
Chronic negative energy balance resulting from a systemic physical training and inadequate energy intake (common in aesthetic sports) may delay pubertal development in elite athletes. Youth athletes, especially those engaged in competitive sports that emphasize prepubertal or lean appearance, are at risk of developing relative energy deficiency in sport associated with disordered eating or eating disorders.
In a study by Weimann they found that, intensive physical training of elite female gymnasts combined with inadequate nutritional intake markedly affect pubertal development. These peripubertal effects are not observable in male gymnasts due to different training regimes in male and female elite gymnast. Regular monitoring of female gymnast during their vulnerable growth phase is necessary to minimize life-long physiological and psychological side effects of high impact training. (E Weimann 1, C Witzel, S Schwidergall, H J Böhles; Wien Med Wochenschr; Effect of high performance sports on puberty development of female and male gymnasts 1998;148(10):231- 4.)

Mental, Cognitive and Emotional Maturity
Preliminary data suggest that the risk of psychological injury associated with participation in Elite youth sport is high. The concern includes burnout, disordered eating, and longterm consequences of injury. (Reference: Todd M Sabato; Tanis J Walch, Dennis J Caine: J Sports Med 2016 Aug 31:7:99-113 The elite young athlete: strategies to ensure physical and emotional health.)
The neural development (brain and nervous system) is 95% developed by age 7. This provides children with the opportunity to develop the movement skills of agility, balance, coordination and speed in general training.
The Jr athlete who develops the neuromuscular control early is picked up by Coaches and mentored with early success but may be injured because of lack of skeletal or muscular development or is not able to manage the psychological stress that is imposed during that time. The Junior athlete who develops more slowly is not seen as initially talented but when they both reach puberty with equal strength, muscle mass and neuromuscular development and emotional maturity the early developer begins to feel failure as they are no longer have progressed technically and or not the only one with those skills and they lose interest, become frustrated as their body changes during puberty forcing them to relearn skills that they accomplished early and they drop out or become injured. However, the athlete who develops later but on a steady course in line with their skeletal and muscular development must be encouraged to stay involved early on and not to be discouraged by the other athletes’ early develop. They need to stay on the training track in order to reach their full potential. Both of these athletes have the risk of ending participation in the sport but for different reasons.
By remaining in the Junior level and providing time for them to mature psychologically and socially along with their neuro and technical skill development, they are better prepared to cope with the increased psychological pressures of Senior. competition, which is important for their emotional health and well-being and in the development of a well-rounded athletes.

Skeletal age
There are two aspects to this area:
The epiphysis (growth plates) and the rate of rapid growth that occurs during adolescence. This immature skeleton along with rapid growth spurts are risk factors for certain types of adolescent injuries.
The epiphyseal plates (growth plates/skeletal immaturity) of adolescence are more prone to injury than the fully developed skeleton. The growth plate (epiphysis)is made of cartilage and is the last portion of bone to ossify or harden into solid bone. It can be 2–5 times weaker than other structures (ligaments and tendons) around the end of the bone and joint.
The growth plates most at risk for a stress-related injury are the ones most loaded during repetitive activity.
Such as the knee in jumping sports for take-off and when landing, the heel in running sports, the hip in jumping sports when repetitively lifting the knee for take-off, the shoulder and wrist in lifting maneuvers and the back in sports with continued flexion or over extension.
Rapid growth places stress on the muscle-tendon junction, bone-tendon junction ligament and growth plates.
The increases in strength needed to accommodate these changes that will enable a child or teenager to continue to generate the same limb speed as before the growth spurt may not occur in a uniform pattern. Such imbalances in growth and strength, coupled with the loading imparted by sport training and competition, create a situation conducive to the development of overuse injuries.
The concern is that during a period of known skeletal vulnerability, the adolescent athlete may be exposed to excessive training and competition loads associated with high-level competition, which places the athlete at greater risk of injury.
In general, closure of the epiphyses and final adult height is achieved at a skeletal age of 17 by the standards of Greulich and Pyle. (Reference: Greulich WW, Pyle SI. Radiographic atlas of skeletal development of the hand and wrist, 2nd edn. Stanford, California, USA: Stanford University Press, 1959)

Summary
There are Identified modifiable injury risk factors that include postural control, competition anxiety, life events, previous injury, and volume of training that will protect the elite junior Skater.
There is also adequate evidence arising from injury prevention studies of youth sports participants - including neuromuscular training, protective equipment, mental training to enhance self-esteem, adoption of task oriented coping mechanisms and sport rules modification - to prevent injuries in elite youth sports settings.
Increasing the age limit to 17 years of age to qualify for entry to the Senior category allows the Junior athlete the time necessary to reach skeletal maturity decreasing risk of epiphyseal injury if training loads are modified during times of rapid growth and to expand on their social and emotional skills development.
Most importantly the ISU has a duty of care to protect the physical and psychological health and safety of all athletes including elite adolescent athlete.”

The ISU Council furthermore noted the conclusions of a survey conducted by the ISU Athletes Commission in December 2020/January 2021, in which 86.2 % of all respondents supported raising the age limits. The detailed Survey Report can be found here: https://isu.org/docman-documents-li...sion-survey-on-figure-skating-age-limits/file
 
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Sylvia

Rooting for underdogs!
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Copying over from the U.S. Women's thread:
If the age minimum proposal passes, I would hope & expect that we see corresponding element rules changes on the junior side. The possibility of this is alluded to in Proposal 22 on the ISU Congress agenda (excerpted below). The ISU is proposing the age minimum increase primarly due to health concerns, which has implications for juniors.
Relevant excerpt from the proposal (page 21) with parts bolded by Claire:

The ISU Council concluded that for the sake of protecting the physical and mental health, and emotional wellbeing of Skaters, the most urgently needed change is a gradual increase of the Senior category age limit in the Figure Skating Branch, from 15 years to 17 years.

The Council proposal is based on a gradual increase, i.e. no change (15 years) for the season 2022/23, an
increase to 16 years for the season 2023/24 and an increase to 17 years for the season 2024/25 and
subsequent seasons. This gradual implementation will:
- Allow Skaters to adapt gradually to the new age limits and avoid that Skaters who already competed
internationally in the Senior category would be compelled to return back to the Junior category (grand
father clause).
- Allow the Technical Committees time to adjust the Technical Rules for the Junior category by
preparing technical changes to prevent injuries.

- Allow the ISU Council and ISU Members to evaluate if the extended period of the Junior age category
and resulting increased number of Junior Skaters requires an increase in the number of Junior
category International Competitions.
The Legal Advisors reminded the Council on its duty of care within the ISU’s jurisdiction to protect the physical
and psychological health and safety of all athletes including elite adolescent athletes.
 

VGThuy

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Wow Lu Chen would have been the 1998 Gold Medalist?
If there was this age limit from at least 1994-95 with no exceptions, the whole pool of contenders and the pacing of training during those four years could have been radically different. Imagine if Yuka and Kristi and Oksana stayed among others. Maybe Maria would have been stronger with gold as a viable choice. Maybe Midori would have continued on in her come back from 1996. Maybe Irina, having had more years stewing as a junior would have less pressure as a second year senior. Nicole could have been the no. US lady for most of that four year cycle and maybe her whole trajectory would have been different (or maybe not). It would have been a different world, that’s for sure.
 

Sylvia

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May 25th article - Mr. Hidehito Ito, chairman of the Japan Skating Federation figure skating, supports the gradual increase in the age limit:
Machine translated excerpt of the last paragraph:
Mr. Ito and others from Japan will attend the ISU General Assembly. If the age limit is 17 years old during the 2026 Milan Cortina d'Ampezzo Olympics, Mao Shimada (13 = Kinoshita Academy; ETA: born 30 October 2008), who won the All Japan Junior Championships this season with a quadruple jump as a weapon, will not be able to participate.
 
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toddlj

San Jose 2023!
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If I am reading this right... skaters who recently turned 15 (like Isabeau Levito, for example) will be the youngest senior skaters for three years running?
 

Karen-W

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If I am reading this right... skaters who recently turned 15 (like Isabeau Levito, for example) will be the youngest senior skaters for three years running?
Yes. Skaters who turned 15 this season (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022) will be the youngest competitors on the senior level (should they choose to move up) until the next Olympic season, which will be the first season that the skaters who are first-year juniors internationally (turned 14 this season) are able to compete on the senior level. It's kind of crazy.
 

Frau Muller

From Puerto Rico…With Love!
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If I am reading this right... skaters who recently turned 15 (like Isabeau Levito, for example) will be the youngest senior skaters for three years running?
Great for Isabeau! The most beautiful artistry and pliant torso. To heck with jumps, no longer what’s most important.
 
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toddlj

San Jose 2023!
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Yes. Skaters who turned 15 this season (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022) will be the youngest competitors on the senior level (should they choose to move up) until the next Olympic season, which will be the first season that the skaters who are first-year juniors internationally (turned 14 this season) are able to compete on the senior level. It's kind of crazy.
On the unlucky side of this timetable is Jia Shin, who is still 14!
 

Sylvia

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World Junior silver medalist Jia Shin turned 14 in March which means she will be 17 by July 1, 2025: http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00111338.htm

ETA: Mao Shimada (as mentioned in post #5 above and who has yet to make her JGP debut for Japan) was born in the 2nd half of 2008 and would miss the (still unofficial/not yet passed) minimum age cutoff of being 17 by June 30, 2025.
 
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VGThuy

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Anybody turning 14 from now until June 30 are on the lucky side of Olympic timing for 2026. Those turning 14 after are on the “unlucky” side assuming they are better at 17 than they are at 21. I’m not going to make that assumption. The new rules may change how skaters are paced and developed.
 

Dai's Blues for Klook

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Forgot if Russia will be able to attend, but Japan having a vested interested in Mao Shimada might still mean this won't pass.

That being said, I'm for this proposal, given recent events, and I hope people aren't blind to its benefits.

One negative that DOES need to be considered, is that if the age limit is 17, coaches who engage in malpractices will force their athletes to engage in those malpractices for a longer time. Delaying puberty till 17 would be even more harmful, than "just" 15 or 16. But I hope the positives outweigh this, and also as @VGThuy says, most will just change how they pace their skaters.

Looking forward to a 21 year old winning Milan, lol. Oldest one since Turin, even if younger still than the winner. Would be fitting in Italy.
 
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Former Lurve Goddess

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One negative that DOES need to be considered, is that if the age limit is 17, coaches who engage in malpractices will force their athletes to engage in those malpractices for a longer time. Delaying puberty till 17 would be even more harmful, than "just" 15 or 16.
I was wondering about this myself, especially in the short run. I'd also be OK with the cutoff date being 17 by the end of the calendar year, rather than June 30.
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
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One negative that DOES need to be considered, is that if the age limit is 17, coaches who engage in malpractices will force their athletes to engage in those malpractices for a longer time.

I'm not so sure. If the coach's success depends on having smaller, younger students, there is no "benefit" to them in working with older students whose bodies may not be able to do what the coach wants.
 

overedge

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That's basically what I mean?

I don't think any drug is going to be able to delay puberty that long, to keep 17-year-old kids with comparable flexibility/height/body composition to pre-pubescent kids. There are some coaches whose whole business model, so to speak, will be ruined by increased age limits. And about time IMO.
 

Karen-W

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Forgot if Russia will be able to attend, but Japan having a vested interested in Mao Shimada might still mean this won't pass.
Nothing we've seen from the JSF or the way Japanese women have developed in the last 8-10 years makes me think that they will oppose the age increase. Shimada might have a 4t at 13, but that doesn't mean she will still have it at 15 - look at what happened with Alysa Liu, just to cite one example of a skater in a more normal training environment than the Russian wunder-girls, not to mention the injury issues that have plagued Rika Kihira this past season.
 

Dai's Blues for Klook

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Nothing we've seen from the JSF or the way Japanese women have developed in the last 8-10 years makes me think that they will oppose the age increase. Shimada might have a 4t at 13, but that doesn't mean she will still have it at 15 - look at what happened with Alysa Liu, just to cite one example of a skater in a more normal training environment than the Russian wunder-girls, not to mention the injury issues that have plagued Rika Kihira this past season.
Yes, you make a very good point with Rika. I wouldn't say Japan gets a full pass with what surfaced about Mie Hamada, but I do think we can be much more positive than Russia (still don't remember if they're going to attend).
 

bardtoob

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Michelle Kwan would have still won 6 Nationals, 3 Worlds, and an Olympic Bronze . . . :rofl:

Technically she never won a "Grand Prix Final", so no loss there ;)
 

VGThuy

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Michelle Kwan would have still won 6 Nationals, 3 Worlds, and an Olympic Bronze . . . :rofl:

Technically she never won a "Grand Prix Final", so no loss there ;)
I do wonder how Kwan would have developed knowing she'd be gunning for the 2002 Olympics at the earliest rather than Nagano (though she really tried to make it for Lillehamar as well). Maybe not being a senior at such a young age would have made her more patient to keep developing her jumps and spins. I mean I love her to death and her at her peak is my ideal skater, but she wasn't perfect and could have developed into her late teens and early-to-mid twenties differently.
 

Karen-W

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Yes, you make a very good point with Rika. I wouldn't say Japan gets a full pass with what surfaced about Mie Hamada, but I do think we can be much more positive than Russia (still don't remember if they're going to attend).
Russia and Belarusian participation in the ISU Congress is going to be voted upon at the start of the session. There is an urgent proposal to amend the ISU Constitution to include war/acts of aggression as reason to suspend any national federations from the ISU. Once/if that passes, then Russia & Belarus will be barred from the rest of the Congress. Who knows if they're going to be kicked off the premises, though, but they won't be able to lobby except during breaks because they won't be allowed inside the meeting rooms.
 

Dai's Blues for Klook

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Russia and Belarusian participation in the ISU Congress is going to be voted upon at the start of the session. There is an urgent proposal to amend the ISU Constitution to include war/acts of aggression as reason to suspend any national federations from the ISU. Once/if that passes, then Russia & Belarus will be barred from the rest of the Congress. Who knows if they're going to be kicked off the premises, though, but they won't be able to lobby except during breaks because they won't be allowed inside the meeting rooms.
I hope they get Special Coffee with Extra Valium then :lol:
 

bardtoob

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Maybe not being a senior at such a young age would have made her more patient to keep developing her jumps and spins.
Commentators said and years later Frank confirmed that Michelle was training the 3A circa 1995, including planning it in minor competitions, but after 1995 they received a clear message to trade the 3A for the make-up and better costumes.

I remember in 1995 Michelle having fairly decent spins for the time, including her layback spin, which did not yet have a glaring problem with the free leg. At that time, combinations spins were really the height of spin content, rather than moving between variations within a classic position. Also, the Beillmann was rare and somewhat considered a power move, performed by Surya and Irina. On the other hand, Michelle's main competition in 1996 was Chen Lu, who did not have strong spins.
 
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MacMadame

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I was wondering about this myself, especially in the short run. I'd also be OK with the cutoff date being 17 by the end of the calendar year, rather than June 30.
It's that way because Dec 31st is in the middle of the season.

I do wonder how Kwan would have developed knowing she'd be gunning for the 2002 Olympics at the earliest rather than Nagano (though she really tried to make it for Lillehamar as well). Maybe not being a senior at such a young age would have made her more patient to keep developing her jumps and spins. I mean I love her to death and her at her peak is my ideal skater, but she wasn't perfect and could have developed into her late teens and early-to-mid twenties differently.
But she was injured in that timeframe. Would age limits have stopped that? Well, that's what proponents of age limits say. :D
 

VGThuy

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It's that way because Dec 31st is in the middle of the season.


But she was injured in that timeframe. Would age limits have stopped that? Well, that's what proponents of age limits say. :D

Maybe? Would she have been doing Olympic-level content as early and as much as she did from the age of 13-on if her first Worlds weren’t going to happen until she was 18 and her first Olympics weren’t going to happen until she was 21? Of course, her toe fracture seems like it could happen no matter what the numbers of run-through and competitions she did. Her more chronic hip injuries that affected her during the second half of her career and then groin injury in her rush to play catch up for Torino…who knows?

I know it’s a totally different sport but Simone Biles really paced herself and slowly built up her technical skills by 2016 because she was of the age where she was born a year (or some months) too late for the 2012 Olympics. She wasn’t doing skills that was considered incredibly “ahead of the pack” as a junior.
 

MacMadame

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I know it’s a totally different sport but Simone Biles really paced herself and slowly built up her technical skills by 2016 because she was of the age where she was born a year (or some months) too late for the 2012 Olympics. She wasn’t doing skills that was considered incredibly “ahead of the pack” as a junior.
Biles and gymnastics are good examples of how raising the age level really works and doesn't result in Juniors having harder skills than Seniors.
 

DimaToe

Retired by Frank Carroll
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I think the raise in age will benefit those with a more “pure” jump technique in the long run. I don’t believe it will bring back the “artistry” that so many seem to be nostalgic about. It’ll make skaters work the judging system even more to get those points, less quads but more overly packed programs that milk the IJS in spins, footwork, etc.
 

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