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Prep Gymnastics and Chiropractic: Adding Balance for a Perfect Routine

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By: Paul Rothbart

Prep-Gymnastics-and-Chiropractic-Adding-Balance-for-a-Perfect-Routine

One of the most popular extracurricular activities for high school students is playing sports. Teens learn about teamwork and take pride in representing their school in athletic competitions.

Although not nearly as popular with spectators as many other sports, high school gymnastics requires a high level of skill and physical traits that make it challenging and great fun for its participants.

With the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics on the horizon, young gymnasts will receive a dose of inspiration, especially the girls. Olympic champions like Olga Korbut, Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Strug, and—the GOAT—Simone Biles have inspired generations of young gymnasts to pursue their Olympic dreams.

Many of these gold medalists dazzled the world with their talents while still in their teens. Remarkably, according to a review of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association's (SFIA) Gymnastics Single Sports Report, 16 percent of female gymnasts aged 13–17 win medals, showcasing their incredible dedication and skill at such a young age. As they grow older, the percentages shift, with 9 percent winning medals between the ages of 18–24, 10 percent between 25–34, and just 4 percent between 35–44. These statistics highlight the unique and fleeting window in which these young athletes often reach their peak on the international stage.

What physical traits are required to excel in gymnastics?

Gymnastics is an incredibly challenging sport, demanding both physical prowess and mental resilience. While many young athletes participate at the high school level, the club circuit often presents an even higher caliber of competition. To truly excel in gymnastics, a budding star must possess a unique combination of physical agility, strength, and unwavering mental focus, whether they compete in school or club leagues.

Flexibility - Perhaps the most obvious physical trait shared by gymnasts is flexibility. The ability to contort their bodies into positions that would send most of us screaming to the ER relies on a strong, well-aligned, and flexible spine with flexible joints and a full range of motion.

Core strength - A strong core is essential in any sport and certainly in gymnastics. Holding the body in place and allowing movements, whether on apparatus, a mat, or in the air, relies on a solid and strong core.

Upper and lower body strength - Many gymnasts, especially women, are small in stature, but make no mistake, they are strong. Leg strength is needed to launch themselves into the air, and their upper bodies must be able to support their full body weight in many movements in several events.

Balance - There’s a reason it’s called a balance beam. Gymnasts must have superior balance, coordination, and body control in every event. One wrong shift can mean the difference between a medal and a fall that could cause injury.

What mental traits are required to excel in gymnastics?

To succeed in gymnastics, a young athlete needs certain mental traits.

Passion - The most successful gymnasts are passionate and love the sport. Passion can keep you going when things get tough, and gymnasts need plenty of it.

Courage - Let’s face it, you have to be brave to launch yourself into the air, perform somersaults and twists, and then stick a landing. Gymnastics is not for the faint of heart.

Commitment - Becoming a good gymnast takes countless hours of training and practice. Without a high level of dedication, it’s not going to happen.

Confidence - Believing in yourself, your abilities, and your training are keys to success in gymnastics. The champions of the sport all have healthy doses of confidence.

What are the most common injuries suffered by gymnasts?

Like any sport, gymnasts are prone to certain kinds of injuries. A fall or an awkward landing can lead to a young athlete getting hurt. Overuse injuries are common.

Spinal fractures and herniated discs

Among the most common gymnastics injuries are spinal fractures and herniated discs. The back of a gymnast is frequently curved and extended in ways that are not common in everyday life. Young athletes who have not yet developed sufficient flexibility for a particular move can easily suffer an injury to the spine. This can also be the result of a fall. Low back pain is another common problem.

Joint injuries

The joints of a gymnast are vulnerable, and knee, wrist, and ankle sprains are common. A fall or a missed grab at a bar can cause a wrist fracture. With the stress placed on the upper body, shoulder injuries—such as ligament tears and dislocations—frequently occur.

Strains and tears to the Achilles Tendon

Everyone knows the term “stick the landing.” When a gymnast lands, they hit the mat with considerable force. A foot that is even slightly less than flat can easily lead to Achilles tendons being strained or torn.

Overuse injuries

Overuse injuries are common in all physical activities. Gymnasts put in hours of practice and training; soreness and damage can easily occur to parts of the body that have been performing a movement or function over and over again. Knowing when to stop for the day and getting proper rest are essential.

What are the potential benefits of chiropractic for high school and youth gymnasts?

Sports medicine plays a crucial role in treating and preventing injuries and enhancing athletic performance in young gymnasts. Chiropractic care, in particular, can be an invaluable part of their training and treatment regimen.

Preventing injuries

One of the significant benefits of chiropractic care for athletes is injury prevention. For gymnasts, maintaining a healthy and properly aligned spine is vital. Regular chiropractic care helps keep the spine and joints flexible, helping to reduce the risk of injury. A strong musculoskeletal system is essential for gymnasts of all ages, and chiropractic adjustments support this by ensuring optimal spinal alignment and joint health.

Treating injuries

When injuries do occur, the goal is swift recovery time that alleviates pain, fully heals the injury, and gets the athlete back to training and competition. Chiropractic adjustments can aid the healing process naturally, without the need for pain medication and its potential side effects. By addressing the root cause of the injury, chiropractic care promotes thorough and effective healing.

Boosting performance

A fit body functions at its best, and chiropractic treatment can help gymnasts—or any athletes—achieve optimal performance. Adjustments can help increase flexibility and range of motion in the spine and joints, which are crucial for gymnasts. Studies have shown that spinal manipulation may improve nervous system response by relieving pressure on the spinal cord, potentially enhancing reflexes and providing a competitive edge.

Incorporating chiropractic care into a gymnast's routine not only supports injury prevention and recovery but also boosts overall performance, helping young athletes reach their full potential.

Guidelines for preventing injuries to young gymnasts

Young gymnasts can do their part in preventing injuries. There are guidelines they should be aware of and practice with regularity.

Preparation

Stretching and warming up before training, practices, or meets is essential for a gymnast. The prep period should be extensive and last 20-30 minutes. Gymnastics places a lot of stress on the body, so it must be ready to deal with it.

Every bit as important as warming up, cooling down helps to prevent muscles from tightening up, leading to painful cramps.

Staying hydrated before, after, and throughout training, practice, and competitions is important as well.

Proper clothing and equipment

Loose-fitting clothing can get caught on an apparatus and make it difficult for your coach to spot you when learning a new maneuver. Always wear apparel designed for gymnastics. Safety gear, such as wrist braces, hand grips, and heel pads can help prevent injury. Using chalk to keep sweaty palms dry is recommended.

Proper technique

Gymnastics techniques were developed to allow the athlete to perform their spectacular maneuvers safely. Young gymnasts are advised to pay attention to their coaches and focus on proper techniques while attempting to learn and practice new moves. Always have a spotter watching you and take advantage of safety harnesses and training mats during practice.

Somewhere out there are the dedicated high school gymnasts who will become America’s next Olympic stars. In addition to proper training and nutrition, sports medicine is essential.

The Joint Chiropractic is your partner in health and wants the best for your teen athletes whether they aspire to Olympic gold or not. There are clinics throughout the nation providing gold medal service. You don’t need an appointment, so bring your young gymnast in for an exam and adjustment. It might provide that extra boost that will one day land them on the top step of the podium.

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