on Monday, April 4, 2011

In addition to the common injuries in the upper body for gymnasts are those to the lower body  These injuries are commonly to the knees and ankles from the landing and dismount activities involved in the all of the gymnasts routines.  SportsMED again had a lot of interesting information on these injuries as well.

When a gymnast lands "short" or over rotates when vaulting, tumbling or performing a dismount anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) injuries to the knee can occur. This is because the "short" and over rotated landing positions can cause extra stress on the knee and well as twisting it away from its normal position. This is one of the worse injuries for gymnasts because it often requires a reconstruction of the ligament and only about 65 percent of the athletes are able to return to the same level of athletics as before.

Injuries to the Achilles Tendon, located on the back of the heel,  is also very common among gymnasts due to the repetitive jumping and landing activities.  Injuries to the tendon are often aggravated by continued jumping and stress on the body and is often treated through rest and stretching.

The one other injury that was said to common to gymnasts is a meniscus injury to the knee, again due to continuous jumping, landing and twisting.   The meniscus "is a horseshoe-shaped band of fibrocartilage in the knee which acts as a shock absorber."   Often this injury also requires a surgical repair which involves removing a torn piece of the meniscus or repairing the tear, with something resembling permanent stitches to my understanding.

What is interesting to me is that almost all of the injuries come from the impact of the continuous landings and from overuse, yet typically gymnasts have very intense training schedules which seems like a wonderful recipe for getting hurt.  Granted mats are often placed at  the end of the beam, vault and other apparatuses for the gymnast to perform their dismounts on to. This definitely help absorb some of the impact, and make falls less critical to the gymnast, but doesn't completely prevent injuries.  

In addition to overuse and impact injuries, theres always the insane crashes that occur in the sport when something goes wrong or the gymnast loses focus... ouch.