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Gymnastics has its roots in ancient Greek exercises, performing arts and military training. It has been a part of the modern Olympics since 1896. Today, artistic gymnastics includes events for men and women. Rhythmic gymnastics was added to the Olympics in 1984 and trampoline became an Olympic sport in 2000. Although not part of the Olympics, other gymnastics disciplines include acrobatic gymnastics, aerobic gymnastics and Gymnastics for All. The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) is the governing body for gymnastics. Gymnasts may compete at the recreational, club, high school, collegiate or international elite level.

As gymnastics has evolved, equipment has become safer. However, skill levels have also increased over time, and gymnasts are performing more difficult and dangerous moves. Gymnasts have gotten smaller and train more hours. In addition, because most gymnasts are usually performing at their best between 15 and 20 years of age, athletes who want to be competitive gymnasts need to focus on gymnastics beginning at a young age.

Gymnasts are at risk for traumatic (e.g. fractures, sprains) as well as overuse injuries (e.g. tendinitis). The ankle, knee and lower back are the most commonly injured body parts in gymnasts. Because of the amount of weight bearing through the arms, gymnasts are at increased risk for wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries. Gymnasts often pinch the bones and soft tissues in the back of their wrists, causing pain; a condition may even develop wherein a piece of bone and cartilage breaks off inside their elbow joints. Male gymnasts are more likely to have shoulder problems. Because of the repetitive low back extension required in the sport, gymnasts may develop stress fractures in their back. Young gymnasts may develop pain in the growth plates around their knees and heels.

Preventing injuries begins with proper coaching. Coaches should make sure the athlete is physically and mentally ready to learn a new trick. The athlete needs to be strong enough and have enough flexibility to perform the trick safely. The athlete needs enough rest between training sessions so they can recover and avoid overtraining. Proper safety equipment, such as landing pits, mats and spotting tools, should be used to protect the athlete from injury.
Gymnastics is a beautiful and difficult sport. It enhances balance, strength and flexibility that can be useful for other sports. Athletes learn goal setting, discipline and confidence. Although gymnasts may sustain injuries, prevention and early recognition can help keep gymnasts healthy.

AMSSM Member Author: Emily Stuart, MD

Category: Gymnastics,






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