Why Are Backflips Banned in Ice Skating? – 3 Main Reasons


Written by

Marsh Harrison



Godfrey Rice

why are backflips banned in ice skating

Ice skating is a beautiful and challenging sport, where competitors glide gracefully across the ice, performing complex jumps, spins, and routines.

However, one element that is notably missing from modern ice skating competitions is the backflip. While backflips would make the sports seem more thrilling, they have been banned in all major ice skating competitions.

So, why are backflips banned in ice skating? The main reason is for the safety of the skaters and those surrounding them.

In this blog post, we will delve deeper into why backflips are prohibited, examine the risks involved, and discuss other relevant information.

Three Potential Reasons Behind the Ban of Backflips


Are backflips allowed in competition? No, this move has been outlawed by the International Skating Union since 1977. Why is this the case? Below are three main reasons as to why can’t you do backflips:

1. To ensure the performing skater’s safety


The ban on backflips in ice skating competitions was prompted by concerns for skater safety. The risk assessment and safety standards for the backflip were deemed too high, and the move was deemed too difficult to regulate consistently across all skaters.

Performing a backflip on ice requires tremendous physical strength, skill, and precision. Unfortunately, even the most experienced skaters can fall victim to serious injuries, such as sprains, fractures, dislocations, or even paralysis.

The biomechanics of the body during a backflip place immense stress on the lower back, neck, and joints, which can result in long-term damage if not executed correctly. If anything, chances are that you’ll lose balance and crash onto the ice surface.

2. To ensure the subsequent skaters’ safety


Another possible reason that explains why is ice skating backflip banned is that backflips can make it dangerous for the next skaters going on the ice. If a skater were to damage the ice while attempting a backflip, it could create an uneven or hazardous surface for subsequent competitors.

3. To avoid maintenance of the ice during a competition


In addition, if maintenance had to be done on the ice in the middle of a competition due to damage caused by a backflip, it could significantly slow down the event and potentially even lead to delays or cancellations.

This would not only be frustrating for spectators but also costly for organizers who have invested time and resources into planning and executing the competition. As such, it’s another reason explaining why no backflips on ice skates.

Controversies Surrounding Backflips in Figure Skating


Despite the backflip’s popularity, it has also been a source of controversy within the sport. Some judges and officials argue that the backflip is too dangerous and should be banned, while others believe that it adds excitement and entertainment value to competitions.

In 1977, the International Skating Union officially banned the backflip from all competitions. Performing the trick will immediately result in a fall deduction, which is currently set at a base value of -1.0. In the worst-case scenario, the offender may even be disqualified altogether.

What Ice Skater Did Backflips

As mentioned above, performing a backflip is such a hard trick that only the professionals with the highest skills can perform. This is why you would mainly see Olympic figure skaters attempting the backflip illegal move.

1. Terry Kubicka (1976)


The first recorded backflip in ice skating history was performed by American skater Terry Kubicka in the 1976 Winter Olympics. The move quickly gained popularity and became a crowd favorite back then.

However, the move also caused quite the controversy. Shortly thereafter, the move became illegal, making Terry Kubicka the only ice skater to perform a legal backflip in a major competition.

2. Scott Hamilton (1992)


A renowned and beloved Olympic gold medalist, Scott Hamilton is known for his signature backflip moves and incredible somersault. That said, he never actually performed the trick during his competitions, as this was against the rule—he only did these stunts while doing his routines to appease his fans.

He first pulled off this trick in a performance held in 1992. During this event, he backflipped twice, along with other incredibly ambitious stunts. After the event, there were several other occasions where he would attempt the backflips again.

3. Surya Bonaly (1998)


Another skater who is known for performing backflips on ice is Surya Bonaly—a French figure skater who competed in the 1990s. She was the first female skater to attempt a backflip in competition—the 1998 Winter Olympics, to be exact.

By this time, the move had been outlawed by the ISU, so Bonaly received a deduction for performing the forbidden back flip. That said, the Surya Bonaly banned flip was still so impressive that she became well-known for her attempt.

What was even more impressive was that she performed this stunt shortly after being severely injured.

4. Nathan Chen (2022)


During the 2022 Winter Olympic Gala, 22-year-old gold medalist Nathan Chen performed a flawless backflip on ice.

However, it should be noted that this performance was after the competition – meaning Nathan Chen had already received the gold medal by this point. As such, he didn’t receive any fall deduction or penalty.

The Impact of Banning Backflips on Ice Skating as a Sport


  • Impacts on Skaters and Coaches

The ban on backflips has had an impact on skaters, particularly those who wanted to rely on the move to distinguish themselves in competitions. Coaches must adapt their training strategies and routines to comply with the new regulations, potentially limiting the range of moves available to their skaters.

However, the ban also increased the focus on precise technique and artistry, encouraging skaters to develop other aspects of their performances.

  • Impacts on the Audience and the Future of the Sport

The removal of the backflip from competitions has changed the way audiences experience ice skating, with fewer acrobatics and more emphasis on artistic expression.

It also reflects the evolution of the sport, with new techniques and styles emerging as skaters continue to push the boundaries of what is possible. As technology and training methods continue to develop, it is possible that the backflip may once again become a regular part of ice skating competitions in the future.

Can You Still Do a Backflip While Ice Skating?


Theoretically, you can still do a backflip while ice skating. However, as mentioned above, this is an incredibly dangerous stunt that can leave you with permanent injuries, even with the guidance and supervision of a qualified instructor.

Severe injuries and possible death aside, keep in mind that backflips are banned in many competitions, particularly those under the regulations of the International Skating Union. Therefore, performing these stunts can lead to a fall deduction or penalty.

Even if you don’t mind the possible consequences, keep in mind that doing a backflip is still generally frowned upon. So if your goal is to impress others, it’s best to scratch the idea.

Frequently Asked Questions


Were backflips always banned in ice skating competitions?

No, backflips were not always banned in ice skating competitions. This move was only outlawed in 197—a short while after Terry Kubicka first attempted this stunt.

But as the physical demands and risks increased, safety regulations were put in place, and backflips were eventually banned.

What other elements are banned in ice skating competitions?

Several other elements are banned in ice skating competitions, including the “Death Spiral Figure Skating,” where the female partner is lowered almost to the ice while skating in a spiral pattern with the male partner.

Another banned move is the “Headbanger Lift,” where the female partner is swung by the feet and head, often at high speeds.

Is there a chance that backflips will be allowed again in the future?

It is unclear if backflips will be allowed again in the future. While some argue that the ban is overly cautious and limits the creativity and expression of skaters, safety concerns remain a top priority for ice skating organizations.

Any decision to reintroduce backflips would need to be weighed against the risks and benefits to skaters and the sport as a whole.


Backflips are banned from modern ice skating competitions due to safety concerns. They pose a significant physical risk to skaters, and the safety regulations in place prioritize the well-being of competitors. They can also damage the ice, which demands time-consuming maintenance that can affect the flow of the competition.

With that said, you now know the answer to, “Why are backflips banned in ice skating?” Hopefully, this has been both interesting and informative! Do you have any other theories as to why ice skaters are not allowed to do backflips? If yes, comment down below!

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