In every sport–not just gymnastics–there stands the risk
of injury, no matter how adept or flexible your gymnast
happens to be. The sport requires a lot of psychological
and physical preparation, in part because it is extremely
rigorous, and in part because it demands a higher level of
skill than most other sports. The complexity that routines
entail increases the risk of painful injury and fatigue if
proper preparations are not taken to ensure all-around
The most common injuries to the body are those to the ankles
and feet, the lower back, knees, hands, and wrists. These
can be due to overuse or simple stress. The lower body
injuries are generally because of unbalanced landings,
while the back experiences strain when insufficient
stretching has been performed. Scrapes and bruises are to
be expected, even if your gymnast is properly attired — so
simply be prepared. Any injury to a gymnast’s body can be
detrimental to his or her performance in the future.
Stiffness can result from lack of use of a limb or of the
back if he or she is put out of the game for too long–that
is, if the injury is serious. For the most part, as a
parent, you will have to deal with less serious injuries
(hopefully), and you will not need to visit the doctor’s
office to have them treated.
In any case, the best course of action is indeed prevention.
The standard safety measures in any sport are simple and
easily implemented, most especially for gymnastics.
First, you will want to make sure that your gymnast wears
the proper clothing. If he or she has long hair, tie it
back, braid it, or otherwise secure it. Do not allow them
to wear clothing that is too loose or baggy and conducive
to tripping; the same goes for socks and shoes – nothing
that will cause them to slide on a nonporous surface.
Remove all jewelry. Rings, for instance, can be caught on
swelling fingers if one is sprained. Earrings can be torn
from earlobes or carteliage in a mishap.
Then, make sure that you and your gymnast takes stock of the
surroundings. Wires from equipment can trip or cut;
running into poles or other gymnasts can be a disaster. To
trip on a mat that is higher than the current surface might
Next, have them warm up. Warmups are vital to any sport,
and every gymnast, whether they are a preschooler or a
professional, should do them before starting any strenuous
activity. This includes jogging, speed walking, and
stretching — anything to get the blood moving and the
heart pumping. Believe it or not, a good stretch decreases
the risk of a strained or pulled muscle, and it actually
feels good. If you’re training with your young gymnast at
home or otherwise on your own time, it’s advisable to be a
good role model and join them in their warm-ups. Turn on
some music and move too. It’s a triple plus: you’ll be
showing her or him how to properly warm up, that you are
interested in what they are doing, and you will be getting
your heart rate going strong too.
When your gymnast is out on the floor, make sure that he or
she takes breaks for water frequently. Hydration is key to
good health. If he or she is sweating profusely,
dehydration is possible, and that too can be a disaster
waiting in the wings.
Beyond all of the hazards of gymnastics, there is treatment
for any injuries received. Of course, if your gymnast is
injured severely, a doctor visit might be the best idea —
or even the emergency room. However, that is simply common
sense. On the other hand, if your child is not injured
severely, you may wish to take care of him or her yourself.
But whatever you decide to do, please understand I am not a
doctor and you should always consult your family doctor if
you have any problems or concerns.
For sprains, strains, bumps and bruises, you should use
ice for the first twenty four hours. Ice cubes in a
plastic bag with a facecloth or a hand towel wrapped around
the bag itself is sufficient if you do not have a medical
ice pack. Never place ice directly against skin – and
never ice for more than twenty to thirty minutes at a time.
Three or four times in the first day after the injury
should be sufficient. After that, gentle heat compresses
will help to relax any muscle spasms or pain that isn’t
taken care of with some kind of pain reliever (consult a
doctor before giving your gymnast ANY medication).
Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with injuries — but
remember, prevention is better than anything else. Keep
this in mind and be safe.
By Murray Hughes
Gymnastics Secrets Revealed
“The book EVERY gymnastics parent should read”