For Coaches Is "too much" back flexibility ever a problem?

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MdGymMom01

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Mar 5, 2008
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I posted this in the regular forum, but figured I should ask the experts:

I just read up on how Shayla Worley was out of the VISA championships because of a sore back. That really sucks cause I sooo want her to be on the Olympic team! Anyway, does anyone remember a little Hungarian named Henrietta Onodi back in the 1990's who also had extreme back flexibility and was out with back injuries towards the end of her career? My question is--does extreme back or lumbar flexibility play a role in injuries later in the gymnasts' career? The years and years of bending and stressing the back farther than most gymnasts would probably lead to problems.

My daughter has pretty extreme back flexibility now at age 9 so I am a bit concerned about her later in life. Is this something I need to be concerned with? If so, is there anything I can do now with her, strength training-wise to aviod these problems?
 
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Aussie_coach

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Actually I have seen in many instances a child with major back flexibility have to deal with back problems when they got older but it happens just as often when they have never done gymnastics. It seems the natural back flexibility was the issue rather than the training. In the gym she should be doing exersizes to strengthen her back at the same time as develop the flexibility which should reduce the risk.

It is a good idea to keep an eye on it though, perhaps a yearly visit to a physiotherapist to make sure everything is in good working order, also if she complains of any back pain make sure it's straight to the physio for a check up. Most gymnastics related problems occur when a gymnast has a small injury but dismisses it as nothing and continue's to train on it for a long time before seeking medical advice. If you make sure you check out all problems quickly your daughter should have a healthy gymnastics career.
 
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I think it can be a problem. In general those with flexibility lack strength and those with strength lack flexibility (obviously a huge generalization, but for the most part it holds true). So I feel that those with very flexible backs may need to do more back strength. Back strength (lower back especially) is probably the one area of the body that is easiest to miss when doing conditioning. You may want to talk to your daughter's coach or a physical therapist about some exercises she can do to build back strength. I'm not a physical therapist, but I feel like if you do see one, you might want to ask about hip and glute strength, too. I have a hunch that weaknesses in this area may lead to lower back pain.

I'd also see if you can avoid the super-archy back poses that gymnasts like Hollie Vise and Shayla Worley use. I know my lower back would get sore just from working backwalkovers on beam, and I can't imagine what it would feel like if I were doing a lot of poses, too. Backs injuries are usually from overuse, and it's easy to avoid poses.
 

gymdog

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Back issues seem to be a problem in general in my experience. Gymnastics is demanding on the body from a back standpoint. I've know quite a few girls with flexible backs who had a variety of back problems, and girls who didn't stand out as being particularly flexible in their back who also had back problems. So I'm not sure you can isolate it much other than to say it is definitely possible and having a flexible back won't discount back problems, per se.

But I think strength discrepancies can play a role in injuries, for example stomach being stronger than back, or hip flexors, same with flexibility, usually where I have seen people with imbalances there have at least been superficial overuse injuries. I've had problems like that myself, my lower back is more flexible than my upper back and hip flexors, and one side of my back is obviously more developed than the other. I haven't had serious back injuries, but I have pulled muscles and had serious soreness if I did a lot of walkovers. I've actually completely torn a muscle in my lower back twice, although the first time stemmed from a trauma injury and the second time was overuse but it was a re-injury of the same spot. Then I had some kind of pain on one side of my back last year that I never really figured out, probably some swelling that was nagging after the end of high school season (and tumbling on hard surfaces) that I seriously exacerbated when I did a front layout punch pike and snapped out of the pike really hard (don't really know what I was thinking...I'd been doing that series for 5 years or something then).
 

MdGymMom01

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Mar 5, 2008
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My dd was a flyer last year in cheer...

I'd also see if you can avoid the super-archy back poses that gymnasts like Hollie Vise and Shayla Worley use. I know my lower back would get sore just from working backwalkovers on beam, and I can't imagine what it would feel like if I were doing a lot of poses, too. Backs injuries are usually from overuse, and it's easy to avoid poses.
For cheerleading, since she was a flyer and so flexible, she held a LOT of scorpions, scales and bow & arrows. The scorpions use a lot of back flexibility (like Shayla's pose on beam). It is beautiful to watch and a great way to showcase the flexibility, but I don't want it to be an issue or cause problems down the road.

Thanks for all the advice!!
 
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