Tumbling athletes, including gymnasts and cheerleaders, place unique demands on their upper body. When tumbling, the athlete places not only their entire body weight through the hands but can have up to 16 times their body weight in force going across the wrist.1 Due to these extreme conditions, pain in the wrist can occur.
Gymnastics is considered a high risk sport for head and neck injuries. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can occur from a direct or indirect force on the head. In gymnastics this can be the result of falling on the head, collision with equipment, collision with another athlete, or a fall where the head does not directly take the blow but a whiplash type movement occurs. In each of these scenarios, the brain moves rapidly inside the skull.
Tendinitis is a chronic, overuse type of injury that is common in gymnasts as they perform multiple repetitions of their routines – on the floor, beam and when sprinting toward the vault. Rhythmic gymnasts are also at risk due to performing up to four different routines on the floor with repetitive jumping, leaping and turning.
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.
Gymnasts and cheerleaders are two types of athletes whose sports require tumbling. Tumbling can range from cartwheels to more complex flips and twists. Regardless of the difficulty of the tumbling, strong ankles for pushing off and landing are important. Weakness in ankles can result in injury such as an ankle sprain, ankle fracture, or tendinitis in muscles surrounding the ankle.
Male gymnasts encounter different stresses on their joints compared to their female counterparts due to differences in the events they compete. In men’s gymnastics, there are multiple events that place stress across the joints of the arm including the rings, high bar, parallel bars and pommel horse.
Gymnastics is a unique sport in that the athletes spend a large amount of time on their hands. Handstands, tumbling and bars all require the athlete to place their full body weight through the arms and onto the hands. A unique injury to gymnastics is Gymnast Wrist.