What happens when Rhythmic gymnasts get injured?
The understanding of injuries in adolescent athletes, particularly in the case of Rhythmic Gymnastics is largely unknown because of the lack of prospective, long term studies on it. It’s a really important topic to learn and research more about because of the large number of children and teens participating in competitive sports at a young age. There are many potential injuries they can get and the long-term consequences are also largely unknown, particularly with sport specific injuries.
To find out more about what kind of injuries other Rhythmic gymnasts got from the sport, I interviewed 15 gymnasts from Singapore, who have all done Rhythmic Gymnastics competitively internationally and nationally, for lengths ranging from 4-10 years, with a median length of 9 years.
The types of injuries sustained from the sport ranged from bruises and scratches, to sprained ankles, toes, wrists and fingers, to knee and back problems, to hip and hamstring injuries and broken legs.
From the 15 gymnasts, the most common problems primarily involved their ankles, while there were also many knee and back issues.
All of the gymnasts who reported to have an injury, continued training while they were still injured, and 70% said that this made their injury worse or caused it to take a longer time to heal compared to if they had not continued training. 63% of the gymnasts surveyed reported that the same injury came back again after it had recovered because of training.
Why did the gymnasts continue training?
The general consensus was the desire to practice for competitions, to get selected for competitions, and to avoid making our coaches angry pushed us to continue going for training.
“I had a competition coming up and somehow I always get injured before competitions”
“I had minor injuries, so I didn’t want to seem like I was slacking” -C
“Because I had a commitment to gym and I just had to come back to training. It felt like a duty and my responsibility to come for training. I also felt that being injured is not a big deal and that if I had to stop training because of my injury my coach wouldn’t understand.”-Z
“My coach forced us to go for training and I was scared I would do badly for competitions.”- T
“I was scared my coach would scold me or replace me (in group)”
“I wanted to get chosen for the team for group and I always get injured very close to competitions so it always seems like a waste and bad to stop training just before competition.” -K
“My Coach said we had to come training everyday no matter what unless we couldn’t walk” -Z
More opinions from the gymnasts
“My coach allowed me to have a lighter load during trainings because of my injury and tried to make sure that I didn’t further injure myself.” This is great! It’s really important that you tell your coach if you’re injured so you don’t make your injury even worse.
“We were super scared of getting sick also because skipping training due to sickness was an even more minor issue and we had to come even if we were down with fever”
“We used to stuff pillows down our shorts because we kept doing the same part of our routine which required us to forward roll. The ground was quite hard and after doing it many times we would get bruises, so the pillows sort of helped to make the ground softer.”
“I saw the chiropractor multiple times and it actually worked, but it wasn’t beneficial in the long run as I train pretty regularly.”
Other research (2)
A study over 284 elite adolescent athletes in a range of sports, over 52 weeks found that…
· 57.4% reported at least 1 new injury over the 52 weeks
· The overall injury incidence was 4.1/1000 hours of exposure to sport
· Of all injuries from which athletes recovered, 22.2% resulted in absence from normal training for at least 2 months
· On average, female athletes reported a greater prevalence of injuries and more substantial injuries than male athletes
The high prevalence of injuries, along with the resultant loss of training time indicated that these injuries were a significant concern in the performance of these elite athletes, particularly with females.
How to prevent injuries
Remember to warm up and stretch!
Warming up prepares your body for exercise, gradually increasing your heart rate and loosening your muscles and joints. Try and stretch your muscles before and after training
Fuel your body with nutritious foods
Proper hydration and nutrition is very important in making sure that your body can work as efficiently as possible
Wear the appropriate protective equipment
Consider wearing knee guards or ankle guards if you need them. Knee guards can prevent bruises when you work with hoop or when you are doing lots of rolls.
Listen to your body
Don’t continue pushing yourself when you are injured, know when to take a break. Avoid overusing one part of your body and rest when you need to. This can help your next training be more effective.
Injuries not only prevent you from training properly, they can stay with you for life. You only have one body that is going to last you a lifetime, so do remember to take care of it!