By: Brittany Kafka
Gymnasts constantly perform great feats of power, strength, and flexibility; moving in ways found to be astonishing and gravity-defying. However, due to the high demands of the sport and intensive forces on the body, gymnasts are at a high risk for injury.
In addition to the physical challenges of the sport, the culture frequently breeds an attitude of pushing through pain. This pressure from coaches, parents, and the athletes themselves leads to an exacerbation of injuries, longer healing times, decreased performance, and more time away from the sport.
Therefore, when a gymnast starts to get that niggling of pain, it is beneficial to see a physiotherapist. We can provide meaningful activity modifications, manual therapy, and specifically tailored exercise programs to help meet a gymnast’s goals. Addressing pain and injuries early can help to prevent exacerbation and recurrence of injuries, recognize flexibility or strength deficits to improve performance, and increase the longevity of the athlete’s career.
Therefore, here are my top 3 reasons why if you’re a gymnast, you should be seeing a physiotherapist:
- Preventing Injury/Reinjury
When a gymnast is in pain with certain skills or activities, it is important to address these limitations to avoid compensations with the potential to lead to further aggravation. Physiotherapists have the ability to address and treat the cause of the pain to minimize the likelihood of the same injury recurring in the future.
- Improving Performance
As a result of pain or injury, a gymnast may be limited in their ability to perform a skill. However, by assessing a gymnast’s functionality, a physiotherapist is able to identify and develop a plan to overcome any strength, flexibility, or other limitations that may be concomitantly contributing to pain and preventing the gymnast from excelling.
Deficits in strength or the presence of pain can prevent a gymnast from achieving more challenging skills, which have higher forces and demands on the body. However, building an individualized rehabilitation plan through physiotherapy can help a gymnast progress the difficulty of their tumbling passes (i.e. from a back tuck to back layout) by improving strength, power, and gradually progressing training surfaces and repetitions.
- Increasing Longevity
Leaving pain unaddressed ultimately leads to greater time off from sport, and can shorten a gymnast’s career. A physiotherapist will build a comprehensive and gradual return to sport plan, ensuring adequate strength and conditioning progressions that address the high level demands of the sport. These step-by-step comprehensive plans help to build the opportunity for a longer gymnastics career by building foundations that prevent injury or reinjury and make performance more efficient.
Physiotherapists play a fundamental role in preventing injury and reinjury, improving performance in gymnastics, and maintaining a gymnast’s longevity in the sport by identifying and addressing the root cause of pain and injuries. By treating the cause and not just the symptomology, physiotherapists are able to make a meaningful difference in meeting gymnast’s goals. Building strength, power, and flexibility with physiotherapy will help you vault stronger, tumble higher, swing bigger, and balance better.
Being assessed by a physiotherapist who specializes in working with gymnasts can help by ensuring your sport-specific needs are understood and addressed. This assessment involves obtaining a detailed health history and gymnastics profile, observing and evaluating strength, range of motion, functional movement, and relevant sport-specific skills. Finally, we will collaborate to form an appropriate individualized treatment plan and graded return to gymnastics plan.
Physiotherapist - BSc Hons (Kin), MSc PT
If you are a gymnast or the parent of a gymnast who could benefit from a physiotherapy assessment, book an appointment with our in house gymnast and expert Registered Physiotherapist, Brittany Kafka, at Synergy East, today! As a competitive gymnast previously, she has an excellent understanding of the demands and skills involved in the sport.
You can call us to book a consultation at (416) 551-8715, or simply book online.