Each year, over 86,000 gymnastics-related injuries are seen and treated by medical professionals. The sport, being inherently very strenuous (yet equally rewarding) carries its own set of specific risks.
An element of gymnastics that is unique to other sports is the fact that the upper body is used as a weight-bearing joint. Due to this, the most common injuries from gymnastics are:
Injuries to the shoulder – such as labrum tears;
Injuries to the elbow – such as epicondylitis;
Injuries to the wrist – such as wrist sprains.
Landing and dismounts also cause stress on the lower body, and the most common lower body injuries from these activities are:
Injuries to the knee – such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear or injury;
Injuries to the ankle – such as Achilles tendonitis.
This article aims to help you learn how to prevent injuries during your training in gymnastics.
Warm up, cool down, and stretch
As basic as this is, it cannot be over-emphasised. Warming up the body is a proven and key element of preventing any sports injuries.
A few advanced tips are:
Focus on dynamic warmup exercises before engaging in static warmup exercises. These dynamic exercises involve actively moving the joints and muscles, which also helps to warm the body at the same time. Research shows this helps to prevent injuries more than static stretches (holding a pose).
Consider implementing elements of a national gymnastics team warm-up routine.
2. If there is pain, stop
Pain is a signal in the body that indicates something is not right. Therefore, where there is pain, it’s important you stop and do not push through it.
If you push through the pain, you may risk a serious injury. If you stop and rest, and recover you’ll be able to get back to training quicker and without any risk.
If you do land a small injury such as minor muscle strain, the R.I.C.E protocol would be helpful in healing the injury:
Rest the area – for example, if you have an ankle strain, avoid long walks, or running.
Ice – apply a cold press or ice pack for between 5-20 minutes, ideally 3-4 times a day. Be careful to avoid ice burns by wrapping the ice in a towel if needed.
Compression – use a compression sleeve or Tubigrip to prevent and reduce swelling.
Elevation – allow the injured area to be rested above heart level, which also reduces swelling.
This protocol works well for the first 10-14 days after a small injury. At Tavistock Clinic, we offer physiotherapy in Crawley, and if the pain persists you may want to consider treatment for the injury.
3. Ensure you are wearing safety supports
Wearing the required safety supports will significantly reduce your chances of injury.
Sometimes there will be mishaps, falls, trips and odd landings where an injury could be entirely prevented by utilising the correct safety supports.
Some of the more common items may include:
You can read more about gymnastics technique and equipment safety by reading this article.
4. Ask for spotters when required
You may not always want a spotter, and may not always need one, but when you are learning a new skill, especially, it’s important you do have a spotter ready. This is another simple adjustment you can make to protect yourself from a potential injury.
A spotter is someone who stands near or next to you while practising a new technique or movement during exercise. If something was to go wrong, they can help you avoid being hurt unnecessarily.
In addition to this, it’s worth noting the importance of practice in reducing the risk of injury. The more experienced you become, the less you will need a spotter, and you will be less prone to injury.
A 10-year long study published by the Sports Health journal found that injuries in gymnastics were more common with less experienced gymnasts and less common with more experienced gymnasts.
So it’s wise in the early days to have the spotter when needed, and as your technique improves, you may be able to try the technique by yourself, as long as it’s with your coach’s permission.
5. Strength training out of class time
Use the time out of class to maintain or even build fitness and strength.
Resistance training, specifically, is proven to reduce the risk of any sports injury.
This is because resistance training, such as weight training, helps build muscle strength, power, as well as bone health, ligament stretch and tendon strength.
This means that if there was to be an impact injury, the improved musculature and joint strength will prevent the area from being severely damaged.
Again, it’s crucial that if you do embark on any weight training programme, that you discuss it with your coach at Springfit, to ensure it fits appropriately into your overall training programme.
This is a guest post by Kulraj Singh
Kulraj Singh is the Founder of Tavistock Clinic in Crawley, specialising in physiotherapy treatment for sports injuries. You can contact him directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org