The growing number of children participating in gymnastics only reinforces what parents and children already know- gymnastics offers a great way for children to learn flexibility, sportsmanship, and discipline. Nationwide, approximately 600,000 children participate in gymnastics events. Despite its growing popularity and benefits, gymnastics is considered an injury-prone sport. Why?
Each year, 25,000 gymnasts under the age of 15 are treated in emergency rooms across the country. Many injuries occur at competitions, but even more occur at gymnastics training centers. While some injuries are unavoidable, a great number could easily be prevented. Parents seeking to maintain a safe environment for their gymnasts should keep the following guidelines in mind:
Get a physical. No matter how healthy you think your child is, getting a thorough medical examination will ensure that he/she can safely participate in gymnastics.
Wear safety gear. Parents often make sure that younger athletes wear the proper safety gear. However, older athletes also need to wear appropriate gear. Among high school sports, gymnastics ranks fourth in injuries. Many could be prevented if proper gear was used. Wrist guards, hand wraps, and special footwear must be worn if they are needed.
Check out facilities. Don’t assume that all gyms and staff members meet acceptable safety standards. Make sure that coaches are USA Gymnastics Safety Certified. In addition, ask how many staff members know CPR and First Aid.
In addition, make sure to look at any equipment your child will be working with. Consider utilizing different facilities if equipment looks worn or in disrepair. No matter what the equipment looks like, make sure to ask how often the equipment is inspected for safety issues.
No pain, no gain. Forget this myth. Gymnasts, especially children who “work through” pain, have a much higher injury rate than those who rest and seek treatment.
Talk to your coach. How much experience does your coach have? Is he/she certified to teach gymnastics through USA Gymnastics? Choosing a coach who emphasizes safety and proper technique over fast results will eliminate many potential injuries.
Keep it fun. Children who take gymnastics too seriously carry a greater chance of injury. If gymnastics becomes “work” or training begins to take over all other activities, a break may be in order.
No matter how involved parents and coaches are, twists and sprains are bound to happen. However, a great number of more-serious injuries could be avoided if parents made sure to let safety be their utmost concern.