As the 2016 Olympics wrapped up, we saw the US Olympic Women’s Team soar high above the rest of the world in skill and execution. This success has undoubtedly motivated kids across the globe to participate in gymnastics programs.
In the last 30 years, the sport itself has become exponentially more demanding. Because of this change in intensity, the injury rates associated with the sport have also increased tenfold.
For more information on injury prevention, healthy nutrition for athletes, and safety practices for young developing athletes, clear your calendar and attend this event at Evolve Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation on September 22, 2016 at 5:00 PM.
Outlined below are 3 of the most common injuries seen in gymnasts:
- Wrist strains
A gymnasts’ wrists are frequently exposed to forces significantly greater than her own body weight. As a gymnast repeatedly places her hands on the ground for various skills on every apparatus, her wrist often reaches its end range of motion while absorbing the forces of an upper body landing. Wrist strains are often a sign of other underlying instabilities (i.e. within the shoulder) or dysfunctions within the upper body kinetic chain.
In this article by K. McLaren et al. it was concluded that “Shoulder angles and years of participation correlate with impact wrist angles during the performance of a standing back handspring.”
- Back pain
No amount of back pain is acceptable in a young developing gymnast. In this article, “Stretching the Spines of Gymnasts: A Review,” Dr. William A Sands et al discuss the importance of safely stretching the spines of young athletes. In this review, the authors agree that when done correctly, risk of injury is minimized. However, when put into practice, stretching of gymnast’s backs is often performed carelessly.
When careless stretching is performed repeatedly, an injury to the spine known as ‘spondylolysis’ can occur. Spondylolysis is a weakening in a bony part of the spine that often occurs in young athletes whose sports involve excessive low back extension such as that seen in gymnastics. If left untreated, this can lead to a stress fracture in the low back. New research shows that those adolescents who rest and get physical therapy earlier on, have significantly safer and quicker return to sport time.
- Hip pain / “tightness”
Gymnastics not only requires its participants to be very flexible, but also extremely strong. The hip itself is an inherently stable joint; however, when maximally stretched over and over, it can incur microinstability and subsequent tightening of the muscles around the joint itself. Basically, once the brain views the hip joint as “unstable” or “unsafe,” it sends a signal back to the muscles around the hip to tighten up to provide some protection. This resultant tightening often gives the gymnast a feeling of discomfort and a “need to stretch” more.
Check out this post from Dr. Joshua Eldridge on his website www.GymnastCare.com for further explanation:
“One of the ways that the hip is stressed in gymnastics is through stretching splits. Many times you’ll see in the gym a coach pushing down on a girl, trying to help her attain greater depth in the split position. Most of the times, this coach has stopped stretching muscles and has started stretching the ligaments and capsules of the joint.”
Fall marks the start of a new gymnastics season. Help your gymnast stay safe by asking him or her how he or she is feeling at the end of each practice.
Make sure your gymnast is getting plenty of water and is eating a healthy breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner.
For more on how to keep your gymnast safe and healthy this season check out our event “2nd Annual: Improving Performance and Safety in Gymnastics Information Session” at Evolve Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation (238 East 75th st.) on September 22, 2016 at 5:00 PM.