Gymnastics is a dynamic sport that requires high levels of agility, balance, control, endurance, flexibility and strength. Alertness, discipline and precision are key traits of a gymnast.
The complex nature of the movements and skills along with long hours of training on different equipment may increase the risk of common lower body injuries in gymnastics. Understanding how the lower body works can help prevent common injuries.
Types of Lower Body Injuries
Lower body injuries may significantly affect the overall quality of life of gymnasts as they impact performance and increase the risk of developing degenerative disorders.
Lower back injuries are common in gymnasts as the spine compresses and extends repeatedly while performing different moves. Repeated stress to the lower back may increase the risk of stress fractures and misalignment of the spine.
Increased force from dismount and improper landing add more stress on the lower back, especially if performed with poor coordination and technique. Developing stronger core muscles is important to prevent compensatory movements of the lower body which can increase load on the gymnast’s lower back.
A study in the Journal of Athletic Training highlighted that knee injuries, particularly ACL injuries, made up for the highest number of severe injuries in women’s gymnastics.
When considering the nature of gymnastic injuries, both internal and external risk factors should be taken into account. Internal risk factors include age, health, body composition and foot structure, whereas external risk factors include environment, training, technique and protective equipment.
A study in the Sports Biomechanics Journal described the key factors to minimise the occurrence of long-term overuse injuries in gymnasts. The author suggests the following:
Examining the postural alignment of the gymnast can help identify any problems in the lower body that may cause or contribute to injuries. A weak foot posture, such as flat feet, can also affect the postural alignment of the lower body. For this purpose, the foot structure should be examined to identify and treat a weak foot posture.
With flat feet, the foot arch flattens on the ground, making the shin and thigh bones twist inwards. This places stress on the knees, hips and lower back. With dynamic movements involved in gymnastics, a flatfoot condition increases the risk of lower body injuries.
Treatment and Rehab
Personalised strength exercises and flexibility training, along with customised foot insoles, can be recommended as part of comprehensive treatment and active rehab programmes.
MASS4D® foot insoles help support the feet in their best posture to restore healthy foot and lower body movement. These help remove excessive stress on the lower body and allow the muscular and skeletal system to function properly.
As part of active rehab, MASS4D® can help in speedy recovery of the gymnast while protecting from recurring injuries that may occur because of a weak foot posture and/or postural misalignment. By promoting healthy foot function and postural alignment of the lower body, MASS4D® can help gymnasts get better with every training session.
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Reference: Kerr, Z. Y., Hayden, R., Barr, M., Klossner, D. A., Dompier, T. P. (2015) Epidemiology of National Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Gymnastics Injuries, 2009–2010 Through 2013–2014. Journal of Athletic Training: July 2015, Vol. 50, No. 8, pp. 870-878. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-50.7.02
Reference: Irwin, G., Hume, P., Sands, W., Fujihara, T. (2014) Research Informing Practice: Current Issues in Gymnastics Research: Injury, Skill Development, Elite Performer and Fundamental Movements, presented at International Society of Biomechanics in Sports, Tennessee, USA, 2014.
Reference: Hume, P. A., Bradshaw, E. J., Brueggemann, G. (2013) Biomechanics: Injury Mechanisms and Risk Factors, in Gymnastics (eds D. J. Caine, K. Russell and L. Lim), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118357538.ch7
Reference: Bradshaw, E. J., Hume, P. A. (2012) Biomechanical Approaches to Identify and Quantify Injury Mechanisms and Risk Factors in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics. Sports Biomechanics: September 2012, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 324-341.
Pilates refers to a series of exercises that target the core – the abdomen, obliques, lower back, inner and outer thigh, and so on. The movements involved in pilates also help to improve flexibility and posture while promoting core stability.