With events like the bars, balance beam, and floor, gymnasts are required to master techniques that demand flexibility, balance, and strength. As they learn their jumps and flips, gymnasts can encounter serious injuries from falls or from overuse. The annual injury rate for gymnasts rivals that of high contact sports like hockey and basketball.1
Gymnastics is a sport that requires incredible amounts of strength, flexibility and balance/body control. Flexibility and shoulder and hip range of motion are vital components of training. Strong core strength, stability and body control is also essential to avoid injuries and perform at a high level.
Though gymnastic training does not usually involve weights, gymnasts tend to have very high strength to weight ratios and power outputs. This accomplished performing body weight exercises such as pushups, pull ups, and various jumps. Gymnasts do not want big muscles, they want as much strength and power as they can with as little body mass as they can.
Gymnastics is primarily an anaerobic event, but there is still an endurance aspect to competition. Endurance should be achieved through repetitive execution of one’s routine. All this high impact and repetition can cause acute sprains and strains, as well as overuse injuries.
Since most gymnasts begin training at a very young age, one area of vital concern is injuries to the growth plates due to the high impact stress of landings and jumps. These occur frequently in the wrists, but can occur in various joints throughout the body.
The need for proper rest and nutrition is vital to optimum performance. Often injuries and poor performance are warning signs of over training, or poor sports nutrition.
To help prevent injury, make sure you practice these safety tips:
Warm up and stretch before and after you participate in gymnastics.
Make sure someone is spotting you when you’re learning new skills.
Stay hydrated during practices and competitions.
Take rest days to help reduce your chance of overuse injuries. Consult with your coach about additional ways to prevent overuse injuries.
Review proper technique and participate in a conditioning course to strengthen your muscles, particularly ones statistically prone to injury.
Avoid doing gymnastics when you’re injured, and maintain dialog with your coach and doctor about when you’ll be ready to return to the sport.
Have a physical examination to make sure you’re healthy to compete.
Each year, more than 86,000 gymnastics-related injuries are treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, and ambulatory surgery centers2
One study found that the most common acutely injured body parts were the foot (21.0%), the ankle (19.3%), the knee (14.0%), and the wrist (8.8%)3
Floor exercise (32.1%), beam (20.7%), and bars (17.0) were the activities that resulted in the most injuries3
Female gymnasts are more likely than males to sustain injuries to the upper-extremities, while males are more likely to sustain head/neck injuries4
Among gymnasts ages 12-17, lower-extremity injuries and strains/sprains are the most prevalent type of injury, while in younger gymnasts (6-11), upper-extremity fractures/dislocations are most common4
Remember to always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. If you have any type of persistent pain, be sure to see a doctor.
1 “Gymnastics injury rate rivals that of contact sports,” Brooke Arrington, March 19, 2013.
2 “Preventing Gymnastics Injuries,” STOP Sports Injuries.
3 “Survey of injuries in Seattle area levels 4 to 10 female club gymnasts,” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
4 “Gymnastics Injury Rate Rivals That of Contact Sports,” Diana Mahoney, Elsevier Global Medical News, May 2008.