With many tumbling sports, such as gymnastics and cheerleading, one of the most obvious risks for injury is to the athlete doing the tumbling skill. However there is also a risk for the spotter.
The spotter is usually a coach or teammate who works to make sure tumbling skills are performed safely. For many coaches, the ratio of athletes to coach is such that they can be performing many repetitions of the same movement during a single practice. This can place added stress and increase the risk of injury to the spotter’s shoulder, wrist and low back.
The role of a spotter during a tumbling skill is to protect the athlete performing the skill. They are there for safety. A spotter can provide minimal support or can be in contact with the athlete the entire duration the athlete is in the air doing a skill. The spotter helps to keep the tumbler safe so they can concentrate on the technique of the skill they are performing.
When performing a spot, such as a bump spot, it is important to protect your wrist. A common mistake a spotter can make is to try to accept the weight of the tumbling athlete over their hand and wrist. To protect the wrist when spotting, they should use the forearm instead. The spotter should attempt to move the athlete’s weight more toward their elbow and use the strength of their shoulder to protect the wrist. It doesn’t matter how small or lightweight the athlete is, the spotter should always try to use the forearm instead of the hand and fingers during the spot.
When performing a spot, the shoulders are at risk of injury from accepting the weight of the athlete and overuse from repetitions. When spotting the athlete, the spotter should pay attention to their own shoulders to prevent them from moving up near their ears. The shoulder blades should feel like they are squeezing together and downward even while the arms are lifting or supporting the athlete.
When spotting, as with lifting, your support should come from the legs instead of the back. Spotters should stand with feet wide apart and use their legs to squat and accept the weight of the tumbler. Then if the tumbler needs assist on height during their skill, the spotter can lift using their legs rather than torqueing the low back to help the athlete gain height.
The spotter should also keep their back straight and avoid standing with a hunched over position, which puts additional strain on the low back.
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