Gymnastics is a highly technical and demanding sport, which is associated with a high rate of injury. In fact, more than 80,000 gymnastics-related sports injuries are treated each year in the U.S. alone. While the majority of these injuries are overuse injuries resulting from hours and hours of repetitive motions, acute injuries due to falls or other accidents are also relatively common. Here, we will discuss some of the most common gymnastics-related injuries as well as how to avoid them.
Wrist and Ankle Sprains
Some of the most common types of sports injuries for gymnasts are wrist and ankle sprains. In many gymnastic routines, the weight is placed largely on the wrists or ankles, subjecting them to forces sometimes exceeding twice the gymnast’s body weight. Therefore, even a small misstep or mistake can result in a serious sprain.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the ligaments providing stability to the knee. ACL injuries commonly occur as a result of a sudden change in direction, a sudden start or stop or a bad landing from a jump when tumbling, dismounting or vaulting. Frequently, a loud “pop” is heard as the ACL is injured, and many ACL injuries require surgery in order to fully heal.
Lower Back Injuries
Another common area frequently injured in gymnastics is the lower back. Lower back pain can occur as a result of several different conditions, including muscle and ligament strains, fractures and herniated discs. While strained muscles or ligaments can usually be treated by rest and conservative treatments, lower back pain caused by a herniated disc may require orthopedic surgery. Additionally, spondylosis, which is characterized by stress fractures of the vertebrae, can develop as a result of direct impact or improper twisting. This is one of the most common causes of lower back pain in young athletes.
In gymnastics, Achilles tendonitis is commonly caused by a bad landing or from repetitive jumping and landing, which results in damage or tearing of the Achilles tendon. Since this tendon anchors the heel to the leg, severe Achilles tendonitis can make it hard to walk or even stand on the foot.
Muscle sprains, bruises and stress fractures due to overuse are also all common in gymnastics. Due to the nature of the movements and routines used in gymnastics, any part of the body is at risk of being injured.
How to Prevent Gymnastics Injuries
While there is no foolproof way of avoiding any type of sports injury, there are several things you can do to greatly reduce the risk of sustaining a serious injury. First, it is important that you are in good physical condition as this greatly reduces the risk of injury. Second, always make sure to warm up before and to cool down after exercising as well as to stretch both before and after each training session or competition. Third, if needed, use protective equipment such as guards, braces and pads, and make sure that all your equipment is safe and well-maintained. Finally, focus on learning proper technique. Whenever you are learning a new skill or routine, have someone spot you and make sure that you are in good enough shape to attempt the move.