In Part 1 of this series on gymnastics injuries, I discussed five common overuse injuries that can develop in young gymnasts. In each case, the injury resulted from continued stress on a single part of the body without enough time to rest. Fortunately we can prevent gymnastics injuries, especially the overuse injuries.
Every young gymnast – and every parent and coach of a young gymnast – can decrease the risk of these overuse injuries by using five strategies.
Vary your routines.
Overuse injuries result from too much stress on the same parts of the body day after day, month after month. Vary your exercises and training to move stresses to different parts of the body.
Take a day off when you need it.
Kids don’t have the muscle strength that high school or college gymnasts have or that adults have. All of the repetitive stress goes to the bones and joints instead. Adults probably shouldn’t train every day without rest, so kids definitely shouldn’t.
Don’t train or compete through pain.
For young baseball players, their risk of needing shoulder or elbow surgery significantly increases if they play and pitch through pain. The same fact is possibly true with gymnasts. Fortunately, most pain is not serious and goes away with a short period of rest, activity modification, and physical therapy. If you keep training through the pain, you might risk making the injury worse and requiring a long period away from the sport or even surgery.
Tell parents and coaches you are hurting. Likewise parents, talk to your kids.
Kids want to compete. Plus they don’t want to let parents and coaches down. So they often won’t tell you they are hurting. Gymnasts are similar to other young athletes in this respect.
Parents might make this problem worse by constantly harping on their child’s performance and scores. That pressure only makes it less likely the child tells you about her sore elbow or wrist.
Instead, open the lines of communication. Talk about innocent subjects after practices, such as whether she had fun with her friends. Eventually she will learn to trust you and will tell you she is hurting.
Get pain checked out.
So many athletic people – young and old – don’t want to go to a doctor or see an orthopaedic surgeon out of fear of being shut down. Or you might fear being told you need surgery. Most of the time, though, orthopaedic surgeons can get gymnasts and other athletic people back to sports without surgery. If there is doubt about an injury, go to the doctor and have it checked out.
And better yet, take these steps to avoid having problems in the first place!