Common Gymnastics Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Sep 1, 2023
As a popular after-school activity, parents who have their children participate in gymnastics should be aware of common gymnastics injuries, how to treat them, and how to prevent them. Gymnastics is a fun and exhilarating sport that can teach your children discipline while building their strength, endurance, balance, and overall health.
However, because this sport requires the use of almost every part of the body repeatedly, injuries in gymnastics can be very common. Every joint and limb is at risk if proper warm-ups and techniques are not being applied and practiced regularly. No matter how old your child is, you must be on the lookout for these common gymnastics injuries and know what to do if an accident occurs. Here is a list of some of the most frequent injuries we see in our emergency room as a result of gymnastics.
1. Sprained ankles
What is the most common gymnastics injury? Foot and ankle injuries are some of the most common gymnastics injuries we see in our ER for a variety of reasons. In order to stick a landing in gymnastics, the gymnast must land firmly on both feet without taking extra steps. After completing a vigorous move such as a flip (or multiple flips), the feet have to absorb a lot of shock in order to make this “stick” happen.
In most cases, gymnasts will be landing on softer mats to help with that shock, but the repetition of this maneuver can be quite dangerous to the feet and ankles, especially if you don’t stick the landing. If you were to land awkwardly or fall after attempting to land, you are at risk of rolling or spraining your ankle.
Should you go to the ER for a sprained ankle? If there is swelling, bruising, immediate sharp pain, or a visible deformity, head to the emergency room to have the ankle examined. Most ankle sprains won’t require surgery, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How to prevent ankle injuries
Although it seems as if ankle injuries are inevitable injuries in gymnastics, there are ways to prevent them from happening. The best way to do this is to simply limit the number of hard landings your gymnast is doing. Many of these injuries occur because the child is doing too much, too fast, and is not taking proper breaks to give their ankles time to rest.
Utilizing ankle braces or athletic tape can give the ankles more support and help absorb some of the initial shock from the landings. This is especially advised if the mats at your child’s athletic gym are not particularly soft. Make sure your child is stretching their ankles and resting them whenever possible.
2. Back injuries
Twists, turns, flips, kicks…it should be obvious that gymnastics requires the body to contort in some interesting ways! Although these flips and twists through the air look super cool, they can also be the cause of multiple back injuries, specifically lower back injuries. The muscles in the lower back can be strained or a stress fracture in the vertebrae can occur due to the frequent twisting and pressure that gymnastics can put on the lower back.
How to prevent back injuries
Proper warm-ups, cool-downs, and stretching are essential for maintaining your back’s health, but strengthening your back and core regularly can help reduce the likelihood of a back injury. Make sure that you or your child is practicing proper techniques while in the gym and proper posture everywhere else.
Again, know when to take breaks. If your child expresses that their back is beginning to hurt during gymnastics practice, have them sit out for a bit. The key is to not push them to continue when something feels off.
3. Knee injuries
What is the most common leg injury in gymnastics? Gymnastics landings can be very tough on your legs, resulting in knee injuries being one of the most common gymnastics injuries. Particularly, it is very common for a gymnast to come to our emergency room with an ACL tear or an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury. An ACL tear usually occurs when a person changes direction rapidly, stops suddenly, or lands awkwardly from a jump…all events that are heavily present in gymnastics.
When you stick a landing in gymnastics, it can feel like your knees take on the entire weight of your body. The repetitive motion of bending your knees to stick a landing along with the stress of keeping up your body weight can cause inflammation, strains, and tendon pain. Acute knee pain is common in gymnasts, but if the pain does not subside after rest, it may be best to have a medical professional look at it. Untreated knee injuries can be detrimental to your mobility.
How to prevent knee injuries
Because the knees are typically feeling the most force during gymnastics, along with the ankles, exercising the muscles around the legs can help strengthen the area. This will help so that the knees don’t take on all of the burden when you land. Focus on performing with proper technique, stretch your legs and knees frequently, and wear a knee brace if you are in need of extra support.
4. Hand and arm injuries
The most common gymnastics injuries involving the hands and arms come in the form of wrist and elbow injuries.
No matter what type of gymnastics tricks are being performed, the wrists are going to bear a lot of weight. Whether you’re pushing yourself off the ground during a flip or holding up your entire weight on the rings, the wrists are utilized repeatedly which can result in stress, sprains, or overuse injuries. This risk is especially alarming for young children whose wrists are not developed and strong yet.
Many of the patients we see who are gymnasts come in due to wrist injuries from falling. When you’re tumbling at such high speeds or balancing on great heights, a gymnastics fall can be very painful if your wrist gets caught in the mix.
Elbow injuries are common in gymnastics because the elbows are used to take pressure off of the wrists during tricks. Landing or pushing off of straight arms can lead to injury, so the elbows are used repeatedly which can have some negative impacts on the joints. If elbow pain is left untreated, the joint’s cartilage can soften, resulting in reduced strength in the arm. A strong upper body is crucial in gymnastics in order to support your body properly.
How to prevent wrist and elbow injuries
Building and maintaining strong arm and hand muscles is crucial for preventing any type of injury to the upper body. Stretching and teaching a gymnast how to not hyperextend their elbows or put too much pressure on their wrists is the key to injury prevention in these areas. If you notice any pain, have a professional look at it to ensure that the pain is not serious.
Treat common gymnastics injuries with Complete Care
Here at Complete Care, we are capable of treating all of the top sports injuries, especially common gymnastics injuries such as ACL tears, wrist injuries, sprained ankles, knee injuries, back injuries, and elbow injuries. Gymnastics can be a dangerous sport without proper training and athlete maintenance, but that shouldn’t discourage you or your child from practicing such a graceful and powerful sport.
Whether your child is young and starting gymnastics or has been practicing for years, education on injury prevention is incredibly important. Most injuries in gymnastics can be minor, but severe accidents can be dangerous and may have them sitting on the sidelines. If a gymnastics injury occurs, trust that Complete Care’s 24/7 emergency facilities can have you or your child in, out, and back on the mat in no time.
We have multiple ER locations in Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, Lubbock, and San Antonio) and in Colorado Springs. No matter what injury you’re dealing with, we’ve got you covered.
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