on Monday, April 4, 2011

Gymnastics id definitely a very physically demanding sport and combined with the complexity of the routines creates a very high risk for injuries.  The most common injuries gymnasts face in the are  often for overuse and stress and occur in the ankles, knees, the shoulders, the wrists and hands.  For now I'm going to focus on the injuries occurring in the upper body.

In gymnastics the upper body is essentially used as a weight-bearing joint which makes the shoulder, elbow and wrists very susceptible to injuries. While there are many injuries that can occur there are several according to SportsMED that are a little more unique to gymnasts.

One of the these injuries is in the Superior Labrum, or the cartilage of the shoulder.  Anterior-posterior lesions in the shoulder (SLAP) often occur in male gymnasts on the rings though they can occur during any exercise.  This essentially happens from a shoulder dislocation which causes a tear in the shoulder.  Most often this is treated with arthroscopic surgery.

This is actually an injury I have experienced myself and had treated with arthroscopic surgery, though it wasn't from gymnastics the problems with my shoulders began in my years of gymnastics.  The surgery to my delight left only 3 very small scars which are barely noticeable and despite being stuck in a sling for almost 6 months the surgery was very effective and has made that shoulder much more stable.

The other two injuries that are somewhat unique to gymnasts I thankfully have not experienced.  These are elbow dislocations and wrist sprains.  Elbow dislocations are common because of the amount of pressure constantly placed on the elbows, and the overuse of the joint since it used in all of the events for everything from tumbling to swinging on the bars and rings.  This is an injury which often doesn't require surgery however ligament tears are common from putting the elbow back into place.

Wrist sprains are very common because in gymnastics the wrist is often subjected to forces which exceed twice the body weight.  This is because of the momentum involved in so many of the tricks.  Since force= mass*acceleration, the acceleration of the gymnast into tumbling passes causes a greater amount of force on the wrists.  The only real treatment for this is rest and and avoiding pressure on the wrists for awhile. 

I've never really thought about the fact that running into tumbling passes can increase the force on the body and therefor increasing the risk of injury as well but it makes a lot of sense.   Combined with the constant rigorous training that and the fact that overuse is the most common cause of injuries definitely explains why it always seemed like one teammate or another was out with an injury.