Flipping, Flying, Twisting, and Turning: Reducing Injuries in Gymnastics

Gymnastics is tough. We’re not talking about dealing with the competition or coaches or mental blocks. We’re talking about the injuries that can result from constantly contorting your body.

Our favorite gymnasts seem to make all of the flipping, flying, twisting, and turning they do look so easy. But from their ankles to their shoulders to everything in between, gymnasts’ bodies take a constant beating on each landing and each trick.

What types of injuries are common:
  • Hyperflexibility
  • Gymnasts are trained to be hyper-flexible. They are constantly extending their body, which can lead to less static stability. 
  • Impact Injuries
  • Because gymnasts constantly perform movements which result in hard landings (or sometimes even falls), various injuries may occur:
      • Back injuries:Because of repeated hard landings, the lower back can be very susceptible to injuries, as it becomes too fatigued to actually protect the spine. Gymnasts are prone to a variety of back injuries, including fractures, herniated disks, and disk degeneration.
        • Ankle sprains: These sprains happen when the ligaments surrounding the ankle joint stretch and tear, likely a result of a hard landing or fall.
        • Wrist sprains: Like ankle sprains, wrist sprains often occur from hard landings or falls on the hands when tumbling.
        • Stress fractures: Another result of overuse, stress fractures in the legs occur from continuously subjecting the body to hard landings and falls.
  • Concussion
  • The head may be impacted in a hard fall, which can lead to concussions.
Prevention

Short of quitting gymnastics altogether, there are few ways to avoid the toll the sport takes on your body, especially if competing at the high levels. However, the best gymnasts use the following tips to keep their bodies in peak condition:

  • Warm-up and stretch
  • Yes, you’ve heard it before, but a proper warm-up  is essential to avoiding an injury, no matter what the sport.
  • Cool-down and stretch
  • After a few grueling hours of practice, gymnasts need to take the time to properly cool-down and stretch. This helps sustain muscles and keep them flexible, which are both important parts of avoiding injuries.
  • Core stability exercises
  • Because of the hyper-flexibility of gymnasts, they must perform regular core stability exercises.  Strengthening muscles through a variety of core and flexibility exercises can help prevent many types of chronic and impact injuries. Exercises like planks and ball stabilization can help strengthen the core.
  • Proper nutrition and hydration
  • Gymnasts need to maintain a diet high in protein, a nutrient essential for strong muscles. And we all know the importance of hydration to the body. Remember “Eat Well, Drink Well, Play Well”.
  • Listen to your body
  • Your body will let you know if something is wrong. Pushing through an injury can often lead to a worse outcome and more time out of competition. Have niggles and injuries assessed and managed by our physiotherapists.

For more information regarding injury management or prevention contact one of the physiotherapists at Jubilee Sports Physiotherapy.

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