Tips Gymnastic

Many gymnasts have been injured by colliding with and falling off of equipment, but lots of injuries occur during floor exercises too. Most injuries are relatively minor — with sprained ankles, wrist sprains, and foot injuries among the more common ones. Broken bones, ligament tears, and concussions are also hazards for gymnasts, as are lower-back problems, Achilles tendonitis, and other overuse problems. Gymnasts also might put pressure on themselves to stay thin, and poor diet and nutrition can make people weaker and more prone to injury.

What you will need in the way of protective equipment varies from event to event. Some of the more common items include:

  • Wrist straps, guards, and grips. These are used by male gymnasts on the still rings, high bar, and parallel bars and by female gymnasts on the uneven bars. They’re meant to improve a gymnast’s hold on the apparatus and decrease friction on the skin to keep hands from developing painful blisters. Most grips consist of a piece of leather attached to a wrist strap. Other options include wrapping the hands in sports tape or gauze. Gymnasts, especially beginners and youngsters, should use grips, tape, or gauze to protect their hands from blistering and tearing. Typically, the pros go bare handed to “toughen” their palms with calluses but it’s a painful process that can take months.
  • Footwear. What you wear (or don’t wear!) on your feet depends on the event, the performing surface, and your experience. If you wear shoes while competing in the vault, you might want to use ones with a reinforced toe to help absorb the pressure of landing. Some balance beam competitors prefer shoes with rubber soles to protect against slipping.
  • Spotting belts. You’ll want to use a safety belt whenever you are practicing a new trick or attempting difficult maneuvers. Generally, these belts hook into cables that are attached to the ceiling.

As with any athlete, gymnasts benefit from advance planning. Here are some things you should do:

  • Stay in good shape. Eating a healthy diet and staying in good physical shape — whether you’re competing or not — is particularly important for gymnasts. Almost all gymnastic maneuvers require strong muscles and excellent coordination, both of which are enhanced when you keep yourself fit. Staying in shape also will make you less susceptible to injuries.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before a practice or competition.You’ll be more at risk of injury if you try to perform a routine when you’re tired.
  • Warm up. Before you take the floor or get on any piece of gymnastics equipment, do jumping jacks or jog in place for a few minutes to get the blood flowing. Then gently stretch your muscles and joints. Dynamic stretching, where you make slow, controlled movements to improve range of motion, is thought to be more effective than static stretching before a workout.
  • Know your own skill level. When you are first learning an event, start with simple maneuvers and learn them well before you move on to something more difficult. Trying to attempt something beyond your abilities is a good way to get hurt. Never attempt a maneuver in competition that you haven’t practiced before.
  • Progress on each piece of equipment incrementally. For instance, when attempting to learn the balance beam, start with a line on the floor and then a beam on the floor before moving up to a raised beam.