Sports Physiotherapy for Gymnasts: The Common Injuries and Preventative Measures

The rigorous physical and emotional requirements of gymnastics, along with the growing complexity of the gymnastic routines, leaves the athlete vulnerable to a variety of serious, and potentially career-ending injuries. Overuse, stress, or a combination of the two might trigger events that injure the ankles, feet, lower back, knees, wrists, and hands. Left untreated, even the most minor injury puts the gymnast on the road to chronic pain and bone fractures. In fact, every year, doctors, hospitals and physiotherapy clinics treat over 86,000 gymnastics-related injuries.

The Most Common Gymnastics-Related Injuries

The most impressive gymnastic routines display an unusual amount of upper body weight-bearing. As such, gymnastics-related injuries to the upper body include:

  • Superior Labrum, Anterior-Posterior Lesions in the Shoulder, called SLAP tears
  • Elbow Dislocation
  • Wrist Sprains

Improper landing and dismounting techniques are responsible for the most common gymnastics-related lower body injuries, which include:

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury
  • Achilles Tendon Injury
  • Foot and Ankle
  • Lower Back Injuries.

SLAP Tears Explained

Three bones, the shoulder blade or scapula, the collarbone or clavicle and the upper arm bone or humerus comprise your shoulder joint. The humeral head, located in your upper arm, nestles into a shallow socket in the shoulder blade called the glenoid. Soft fibrous tissue, called the labrum, surrounds the socket and provides joint stability. Four types of accidents can injure the labrum and cause complete shoulder instability:

  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • Traumatic blows to the shoulder
  • A sudden pull
  • A violent overhead reach

Any of these movements are likely to happen during a gymnastics routine. Your physiotherapist will probably prescribe rotator cuff strengthening exercises for your rehabilitation program.

The Injured Wrist

A gymnast subjects his or her wrist to forces that might exceed double the athlete’s body weight! Reducing wrist-related activities is the first step after a wrist injury. The physiotherapist will comprise a progressive series of stretching and strengthening exercises for the surrounding muscle, with the goal of regaining full range of motion to the joint. The physiotherapist also offers an objective voice regarding when it is safe for the gymnast to return to full activity.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries

Anterior Cruciate Ligament or ACL tears occur when the gymnast hyperextends a knee during a tumble, a dismount or a vault. Most athletes report hearing a popping sound, then experiencing pain and inflammation. Most anterior cruciate ligament tears require surgery. The success of the operation, as well as the likelihood that the gymnast will be able to resume his or her career, depends on how well the athlete adheres to pre-operative and post-operative physiotherapy sessions.

Treating the Achilles Tendon

The Achilles tendon occupies the space just above the back of the heel. The repetitive stress of jumping and landing triggers Achilles tendonitis, which results in jump-related calf soreness. The physiotherapy rehabilitation process includes stretching, calf strengthening, and balance training. Foot and ankle injuries might receive a similar type of treatment, which special emphasis on balance training to  enhance proprioception and prevent re-injury.

Lower Back Gymnastics Injuries

The gymnast’s spine performs super human feats of accomplishment. Back injuries, are therefore commonplace. The physiotherapist helps expedite the healing process through a specially designed series of core and stretching and strengthening exercises.

Whether you are a gymnast by profession or hobby, your physiotherapist at Happy Physio can assist in the healing process, while arming you with the skills and know-how to prevent future injuries.

Call us now at (08) 9443 4991 and let us help you 🙂