Professional gymnasts have very flexible and limber bodies, due to years of practice and training. However, gymnasts suffer a high rate of injury, both in practice and in competition. It’s the sport with the highest injury rate in college sports for women. Those who are starting out with gymnastics aren’t familiar with the complex movements of the sport, thus making them even more susceptible to injury.
Common upper body injuries sustained while practicing or competing in gymnastics include elbow dislocations, wrist sprains, and tears of the tendons. Lower body injuries are also common in the sport, with inexperienced gymnasts often suffering from fractures, strains, and sprains in the knees and ankles.
If you’re a beginner and are concerned about getting injured, all you need to do is follow a few guidelines and you’ll be at the top of your game every time you show up for practice.
- Stay fit. Make sure that you’re in good shape at all times. Even when you’re not practicing gymnastics, have a fitness routine that you do at home–incorporate cardio, strength training and flexibility exercises into your workout regimen. If you’re not in good physical condition, you won’t be able to do your gymnastics moves properly.
- Warm up and stretch before practice. Before you start your gymnastics session, take the time to do some jumping jacks, lunges, or squats, or run in place for a few minutes. If your muscles are cold or stiff, they’re more prone to injury.
- Cool down and stretch after practice. After a long gymnastics workout, you may be too sore or too tired to do any stretches. But if you take a minute to stretch your muscles, you’ll reduce your risk of injury and maintain flexibility.
- Stay hydrated. It’s crucial to get enough water, or your athletic performance will suffer. If your body doesn’t have the water it needs, it won’t be able to cool itself properly. Experts recommend drinking a glass or two of water 2 hours before exercising, and another glass after. If your gymnastics session is lengthy, try and take a water break every 20 minutes.
- Make sure you’re dressed for the sport. Every gymnastics coach has different recommendations when it comes to proper attire. Consult with your coach before practice, but they’ll probably tell you to wear some sort of flexible clothing.
- Get your technique right. Beginners often attempt to perform elaborate moves without knowing what they’re doing. Always talk to your coach before trying to do a new move. A coach should also “spot” (watch and monitor) a beginner gymnast, to make sure they’re doing moves correctly. If you’re a beginner and trying to learn a new skill, your coach should fit you with a safety harness as a precaution.
- Be prepared for injuries regardless. In the event that you do suffer an injury, your coach should be trained to administer first aid.
If you adhere to the above guidelines, you can ensure that you properly develop your gymnastics skills without worrying about getting injured in the process.