Competitive artistic gymnastics is one of the few sports that demonstrates both elegance, and tremendous power and strength. If you are crazy enough to be involved in such an extreme sport, you will know how much hard work, commitment, blood, sweat and tears is involved in order to become a superhuman (aka gymnast). You will also know, those long 12 hour plus training weeks, practising skill after skill, and fall after fall, in order to train to stick a landing, come at price: your poor feet and legs sure do take a beating. Tumbling connections, and hard dismount landings can elicit 10-14 times your body weight of force with each landing.
Injuries in gymnasts are typically predisposed by being female, young age, and overuse mechanisms due to repetition of high loading movements that characterise the sport of artistic gymnastics. High impact forces during gymnastic landings are thought to contribute to the high rate of injuries. Gymnasts often landing with minimal flexion occurring at the hip, knee, and ankle, thus resulting in a decreased ability to attenuate shock. At Resonance Podiatry, we also commonly find with our young gymnasts a number of underlying biomechanical features that additionally contribute to the development of various injuries.
Some of the common acute injuries, and repetitive stress syndrome issues of the lower limb Resonance Podiatrists see in our young gymnastics population include:
- Inversion ankle sprains
- Posterior heel pain (Sever’s)
- Arch pain
- Lateral foot pain (Iselin’s)
- Anterior knee pain (Osgood schlatters)
- Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome)
Lower limb injuries occurring with this high impact level of activity, typically are multifactorial, and often can occur owing to both biomechanical anomalies, muscle imbalances, poor postural control, and history of previous injury with poor rehabilitative management, thus reoccurrence of re-injury.
Often with gymnasts there is a large focus on a “quick fix” once injured in order to get back to training as quickly as possible, owing to both pressure of upcoming competition, parental pressure, and pressure from your coach as well. Many gymnasts will return to training earlier than advised as a result of this pressure, this putting them at high risk of worsening their condition, or re-injury.
Here at Resonance Podiatry, although we treat frequently those who are already injured, retraining the sensory feedback in the ankles, and working on lower limb strength, core strength and glute strength, as well as addressing certain biomechanical anomalies regarding foot type and foot function, many of our frequently seen lower limb injuries or conditions can for the most part could have been less severe, or possibly even avoided if the gymnast had been specifically focusing on the underlying intrinsic factors (muscle imbalances etc) as a preventative measure.
Here at Resonance we are all about screening for potential risk factors of injury, ensuring strengthening programmes are put in place to ensure that the gymnast has adequate strength and stability to tolerate the high impact loading of artistic gymnastics. Should you already be injured, we are dedicated to returning you to sport as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Resonance Sports Podiatrist, Ashleigh Steiner has an extensive background in competitive artistic gymnastics, representing the Waikato Gymnastics team at the New Zealand Nationals for several consecutive years, and becoming the women’s Waikato Champion in her final competitive year, completing a 10 year competitive career in the sport. She is based at our Mana, Hutt Valley, and Wellington clinics.
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