Gymnastics is a challenging, rewarding sport that allows your child to have better balance, coordination, listening and following skills, and physical discipline - all while having fun learning to stay active and fit.
However, gymnastics is still an impactful sport that carries the risk of injury to your child. Learn about common gymnastics injuries, how to spot them, and how to avoid them. If your child complains of knee, back, or neck pain, ask their general doctor for a referral to a sports medicine specialist.
Wrist injuries are one of the most common gymnastics-related issues, affecting up to 80% of gymnasts. Young gymnasts are particularly prone to wrist problems, as their growth plates are still maturing.
Since gymnasts spend a lot of time supporting their upper bodies with their wrists, invest in a wrist support brace or pad for your child. The brace can help support the wrist while your child is learning new routines or spending more time on the uneven bars or gymnast floor. Your child's coach or a sports medicine specialist can help you select the best wrap for your child's wrists.
Wrist problems can happen suddenly if your child lands on their wrist after performing a stunt or can happen over time. Signs of wrist injuries include:
- Redness or swelling around wrist joints
- Stiff or painful wrist movements
- Heat from the wrists
Since your child's growth plates are affected by heavy impact in their gymnastics practices, make an appointment with a sports medicine expert to evaluate the health of your child's wrists. Tears in the cartilage or premature closing of the wrist's growth plate can occur without treatment.
A herniated disc is a disc in the lower back that has been moved out of place, resulting in extreme back pain. A herniated disc is common in gymnastic athletes since their bodies are in constant motion, twisting and turning to complete aerials, backflips, and other stunts.
Your child will complain of pressure or constant lower back pain if they have a herniated disc. The disc will not heal on its own and requires rest to heal. The best way to prevent this type of injury it to ensure your child always has a spotter to assist them in difficult tumbling maneuvers.
Another common lower back injury is spondylolysis, a stress fracture in the spine. This type of medical condition is often misdiagnosed since the fracture itself doesn't show up on X rays. However, the pain from this type of back injury is often severe, so if your child complains of back pain for more than a few weeks, take them to a specialist to be diagnosed and treated.
Treatment for back pain in athletes who engage in impact sports, including gymnastics, is rest of the injured area. Do not take your child back to gymnastics classes until you have approval from their sports medicine specialist.
Since gymnasts spend much of their time using their knees to propel their bodies into the air for various activities (particularly in tumbling or when performing dismounts off balance beams and other equipment), knee injuries are common. Your child should wear a knee brace during practices and competition to protect their knees.
A knee injury will present itself with stiffness in the joint; swelling above, below, or behind the knee; discoloration of the knee area; and immobility of the entire leg. A knee injury often affects the ACL and sometimes requires surgery to repair the torn and damaged joint. Since a knee injury can end a gymnast's career, seek emergency medical care if your child complains of knee pain or refuses to put weight on their leg.
Keeping your child safe while they enjoy their gymnastics sport is key. Our specialists at Orthopaedic & Sports Specialists will evaluate your child's condition to come up with a custom treatment plan for their sports-related injury. Make an appointment with us today.