Gymnastic Injury TypesSports injuries are typically classified as either:
- Chronic (overuse) injuries
These include cumulative aches and pains that occur over time and can often be prevented with appropriate training and rest.
- Acute (traumatic) injuries
These are typically accidents that occur suddenly and can't always be avoided; they require immediate first aid.
Gymnastics Injury RatesThe large majority of reported gymnastics injuries include overuse injuries from long hours of practice and wear and tear on the joints. However severe, catastrophic and traumatic injuries are also a real possibility when performing risky acrobatic stunts during gymnastics.
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, gymnastics is the second leading cause of serious or catastrophic sports injuries in female athletes. Cheerleading tops the list, which includes track, field hockey and lacrosse.
The Most Common Gymnastics InjuriesThankfully, the large majority of reported gymnastics injuries are not catastrophic. Due to the nature of the sport, the most common injuries include:
The two most common back injuries in gymnasts include muscle strains of the back and spondylolysis.
- Bruises and Contusions
Tumbling, twisting and flipping on the mats or in the air can result in a variety of bruises and contusions to gymnasts.
- Muscle Soreness
This is the sort of muscle soreness experienced 12 to 48 hours after a tough workout or competition. Getting enough rest often is all you need to recover.
- Overtraining Syndrome
Overtraining syndrome frequently occurs in athletes who train beyond the body's ability to recover.
Sprains and Strains
The best immediate treatment for sprains and strains is the R.I.C.E. method. Two sprains that often occur:
- Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains top the list of the most common gymnastics ankle injuries. An ankle sprain occurs when there is a stretching and tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle joint.
- Wrist Sprains
A sprained wrist typically occurs when a gymnast stretches or tears the ligaments of the wrist. Falling or landing hard on the hands during handsprings is a common cause of wrist sprains.
- Ankle Sprains
- Stress Fractures
Stress fractures in the leg are often the result of overuse or repeated impact on a hard surface, such as tumbling across the gym floor or hitting hard landings.
Head, Neck and Shoulder Injuries from Gymnastics
- Fractured clavicle (shoulder)
- Neck strain
- Shoulder separation
- Shoulder dislocation
- SLAP tear
- Torn rotator cuff
Knee and Leg Injuries from Gymnastics
- Anterior and posterior cruciate ligament (ACL/PCL) injuries
- Groin pull
- Hamstring pull, tear, or strain>
- Iliotibial band syndrome
- Meniscus tears
- Pulled or strained calf muscle
- Shin splints
Foot and Ankle Injuries from Gymnastics
Hand Injuries from Gymnastics
The Most Serious Gymnastics InjuriesThe most common types of serious or catastrophic injuries to female gymnastic athletes include:
- Head injuries and Concussions
- Spinal cord trauma
- Neck (cervical) fractures
- Skull fractures
- Bone fractures
Possible Causes of Gymnastics InjuriesOne of the main reasons for the high number of gymnastics injuries may the increase in advanced stunts and higher levels of competition in recent years. Today's gymnastics stunts include increasingly technical acrobatic and gymnastic moves with a much higher degree of risk and difficulty than in years past.
Gymnasts routinely hurl themselves through the air performing back-flips, twists and tumbles and new, cutting-edge stunts. These moves require precision, timing and hours of practice with a skilled coach.
Safety Tips for GymnasticsToday's gymnastic stunts require a high degree of skill in acrobatics strength and balance. It's essential for athletes to have appropriate instruction and coaching, and to follow basic safety precautions.
- Train with a highly skilled and qualified coach who specializes in gymnastics or acrobatics safety training.
- Make sure you coach is certified in advanced first aid and CPR.
- Only perform stunts in a designated practice area with adequate padding, mats or a spring-loaded floor.
- Never attempt new or high-risk stunts without supervision and trained spotters.
Share Your Gymnastics Injury StoryHave your sustained an injury during gymnastics? Tell us about it! Share your story and offer prevention advice or rehab tips for other gymnasts.
B.J. Shields, MS, G.A. Smith, MD, DrPH. Cheerleading-Related Injuries to Children 5 to 18 Years of Age: United States, 1990-2002. Pediatrics Vol. 117 No. 1 January 2006, pp. 122-129
The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. Catastrophic Sport Injury Research 26th Annual Report, http://www.unc.edu/depts/nccsi/AllSport.pdf. Accessed August, 2009.
Prevention and Treatment of Gymnastics Injuries. [http://www.sportsmed.org/secure/reveal/admin/uploads/documents/ST%20Gymnastics%2008.pdf]. American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. 2008. Last accessed June 2010.