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lauramum

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Hi! I'm new here. I've enjoyed reading many of your posts!

I need to sort some things out in my head, and I thought
typing it all up and posting it here might help with that. This post
is long-- sorry! I'm not offended if you just ignore it.

My 6 year old son is on his way to joining the boys team, and I can't
decide how I feel about it.

My daughter (now almost 12) was a competition gymnast at a junior
olympic training center near our home. When she was 10 (training 16-
18 hours) she began having a lot of knee pain. The head coach
checked her out, declared it Osgood Schlotter syndrome (spelling?),
and said it was fine to keep working out. The pain was pretty bad--
she's a tough kid and not known for whining in the gym, but the pain
really kept her from vaulting and tumbling successfully.

The coach looked at it again a few months later and said knee pain
was very typical for girls her age going through their pre-puberty
growth spurt, and he didn't see any cause for concern. The team
chiropractor (who comes to the gym to work on the teammembers) began
working on her-- first once a week and then twice a week when we
weren't seeing improvement. The pain grew worse and the chiropractor
told the coaches no more vaulting/tumbling. She scratched on those
events for the first couple of meets of the season.

My husband and I repeatedly tried to get her to quit the sport or
just take a year off or something but she would get hysterical and
cry that we might as well just ask her to stop breathing. So we let
her continue, but we were worried.

Then, one day last year she called me and calmly told me to come pick
her up because she'd broken her foot. I told her that if her foot
was really broken she'd be crying, but she insisted she felt the bone
break. She hadn't told the coaches because she was afraid they'd get
mad at her. Anyway, I picked her up, got her x-rayed, and sure
enought-- her ankle was broken. She never cried a bit.

We took her to a pediatric orthopedist. He confirmed the bone was
broken but said what really concerned him was not the broken ankle
but the state of her knees. He said she had the knees of an old lady-
- they were completely worn out, the cartilage was shredded and
ripped, and her bones were grinding together and being worn away at
the joints. He said she had no sign of Osgood Schlotter (the coach was wrong) and every time she felt pain while working out it was because she was ripping
cartilage. The damage is permanant and he said she had to quit
gymnastics immediately.

She was hysterical and begged us to get a second opinion. We took
her to a sports medicine orthopedist who sees a lot of gymnasts. He
told her that if she's passionate about gymnastics to bite the bullet, ignore the pain, and keep doing it. She'd just have to get knee replacement surgery
in a few years. Yeah, right! We vetoed his opinion and thus ended
my daughter's stint in gymnastics.

She took 6 months off to heal up and then tried recreational
gymnastics. But she found that she could no longer tolerate pain and
even an hour a week of gymnastics was too much pain. She moved to
diving (and found a lot of injured ex-gymnasts there) but the jumping
on the board was too much for her knee. She can't do anything (even
bicycling) with her damaged knee, so she no longer does any sports.
She was depressed for quite a while but has come to terms with it and
is happy with her life again.

MY daughter is the oldest of my 3 kids. Meanwhile... my middle son was also a competitive gymnast on the boys team. He was very strong
on his floor routine and loved watching the dance classes the girls
team took every week. Long story short, he became interested in
ballet and quit the boys team. He auditioned for a prestigious pre-
professional ballet school and was accepted. He wants to be a
professional ballet dancer someday, and they tell me he has a lot of
potential.

So, she he was accepted I was prepared for him to be training in
ballet 8-12 hours a week like he was with gymnastics. I was
surprised when they told me to bring him to just 3 one hour classes a
week (two technique classes and one boys class). When I asked them
why so few hours they looked at me like I was crazy and said there
was no need to wear out his body at such a young age-- they needed
him to be in top condition so that he could dance as an adult well
into his thirties. They don't start the long training hours until
adolescence when they've stopped growing.

That made complete sense and suddenly gymnastics seemed extremely
ridiculous to me. In gymnastics my daughter was completely wearing
out her young body for a sport that she can't even make a career out
of. There are no professional gymnasts! At my son's ballet school
they were guarding the well-being of his body and he's actually
training for a career!

So, I became anti-gymnastics and told everyone that would listen how
abusive the sport is and how ridiculous it is to spend so many hours
of childhood training for something that ruins your body and has no
future career (other than becoming a coach, I guess).

Back to the present...A few weeks ago my youngest son who is 6 began begging to go to gymnastics again (he had done preschool gymnastics while my other two were on team, but quit when his big brother and sister left the gym). I took him to the recreational gym and he tried a class, but he didn't
like it. He only wanted to go back to our old gym. So, I hestantly took him there and figured he'd be in the level 1 class because hadn't done any gymnastics since he was 4 and didn't remember how to do anything. So, he went to his class and afterwards the coach said he'd evaluated him and saw a lot of potential. He wants to work with him for a month to get his basic skills down and then put him on boys pre-team to get him ready to compete.

Here we go again!

I guess that shouldn't have surprised me. When he was 3 and 4 and in
the preschool class, the gym owner (and head boys coach) used to
point to him and say "I want that boy on my team in a couple of
years". My son is very excited to go to pre-team but I'm sure you
can see that I struggle with making the decision.

For one, I'm also not sure if I'm ready to go down that path of life again. Competition gymnastics, as I'm sure you know, is all-encompassing! Serving as an officer on the booster club, coordinating all the practices, driving to all the meets, spending all that $$$... it makes me exhausted just thinking about doing all that again!

Mostly, I don't want him to have the stress injuries that my daughter did. But, perhaps it's a whole different situation. For one thing, my daughter and older son have bodies like dancers, not like gymnasts. They are tall, thin, flexible, and very long-legged. Even when my daughter was working out many hours a week she never showed any muscle on her lean body and at meets people saw her floor routines and asked if she was also a ballet dancer. My younger son, however, has a different body. He is short, compact, and muscular. Even
though he hasn't done any sports since preschool when he goes without
a shirt you can see his little six pack abs and his arms are curvy with visible muscle definition.

My observations at the gym have been that it's the tall skinny kids that seemed to get injured and the short muscular kids that seemed to be most successful. So, perhaps his body will be able to take the abuses of gymnastics better. Also, the boys don't train as many hours as the girls at such a young age, so that might be better too.

Anyway, I just needed to write all this down to help me make a
decision whether to let my youngest son go down the competition road
or not. Thanks for letting me vent!

I look forward to getting to know all of you better!
 

gymmomntc2e6

Moderator/Proud Parent
Aug 25, 2007
2,842
North Carolina
I am sorry to hear about your daughter, and the coach should be ashamed for playing doctor. Your dd must have incredible tolerance for pain.

congrat's on your older son - it is wonderful that he has found something he loves and caring coaches who can thing in the long term.

I wish I had good advice for you on your younger son. I guess I would give him the go-ahead. he is after all not your dd and I think that with so much 20/20 hindsight you will be able to spot trouble more quickly this time and know how to handle it.

best of luck and welcome to CB
 

mtbmom

Member
Feb 28, 2008
308
Bethlehem, PA
I'm sorry to hear that your daughter has suffered permanent damage to her knee(s).

My advice with your son is to take him to a doctor if he has pain. Coaches are not physicians and your daughter's coach was practicing medicine (i.e. diagnosing her knee pain) without a license. That is a criminal offense. The question that you need to ask yourself (although I'm sure that you have) is "why did I listen to her coach?" "How does he know what's wrong with her knees without an X-ray?"

Again, I'm sorry about what happened to your daughter. Gymnastics did not harm your daughter. A coach who thinks he's a doctor did.

Take care,

Sue Z
 

Aussie_coach

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Jan 4, 2008
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Your daughters situation is very disturbing, reading it sent shivers down my spine. Having said that injuries don't need to be happening to that extent in gymnastics. If your son does go onto team then you are approaching the situation with knowledge and experience that you never had with your daughter and this should help stop things like this before they arise.

Boys do tend to train less than girls at various ages, their training sessions are generally shorter and less frequent. Boys are also build differently and injuries do tend to be less frequent. But the key to avoiding injuries is the correct management. Find your self a good sports doctor or physio and if your son does hurt himself in any way, or complains of any type of pain. Get him to the doctor immediatly. Most gymnastics injuries occur because they are left to get worse and worse until they are very serious. In reality most could have been prevented with early intervention.

If you start to have any concerns ie he is exsessivly tired, complains of not wanting to train, loosing interest in activities her previously enjoyed. Get to them straight away, chat to the coach and search for a solution, dont let anything go on too long.

Watch the other kids on the team, if there are a lot of injuries then there is a problem with the coaches. Really injuries in gymnastics should be rare, the kids are trained in strength/conditioning, flexibility and injury prevention. They should be doing adequete drills before attempting any skill and the coaches should be aware of problems of their state of mind such as tiredness and self doubt that could lead to injuries. If there are several kids injured at the same time on the team, dont join the team.
 
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lauramum

Guest
Thank you for your replies and kind words! It really helped for me to write all that down and re-read it a few times. It made me realize a few things and your comments reinforced my realizations. I think I've grown a lot as a parent the last couple of years. I didn't realize me role as my daughter's advocate when she was a gymnast. I put all my trust into the gym and the coaches and never thought to question them.

It was a bit awe-inspiring to be a new parent in the gym. The coaches seemed like magicians that they could get these kids to practically fly. I could hardly tear myself away from the gym-- I just stared mesmorized through the windows at the amazing upper level gymnasts. My daughter wanted to be just like them and the coaches said they could get her there-- my job was just to sign on the dotted line, write a check every month, drive her to practice, and clap for her at the meets. I won't be that naive now. For one thing, the newness of competitive gymnastics has worn off-- yes, upper level gymnastics still amazes me but these days the star dust is out of my eyes and I look through the tricks and see the braces and tape on the knees, ankles, wrists, etc.

So, I've decided to let my son join the preteam and get ready to compete. Hopefully the stress of gymnastics won't be as hard on his body as it was my daughter's, but if he does have pain I certainly won't let the coaches diagnose him this time around!!
 

mtbmom

Member
Feb 28, 2008
308
Bethlehem, PA
Lauramum,

Glad to see that you have lived and learned. It is so hard. We as parents trust the experts and sometimes they aren't the experts they profess to be. I'm glad you're letting your son try pre-team. You are much wiser now and you'll know what to do.

You're a very good mom! Don't forget that!

Sue Z
 

Livinatthegym

Member
Feb 4, 2008
204
Region IV
Is your son going to be at the same gym? If he is, this would concern me greatly. Has the doctor/coach left? What assurrances do you have that what happened to your daughter cannot happen to your son? Sure, you can take him to the sports doctor if he has pain, but what will happen if he hurts himself during practice? Will the coach tell him to suck it up and finish unless there's actual bone protruding?

I don't think I'd think I'd keep one child out of gymnastics because another had been hurt. My oldest (the compact body) has lots of knee pain as a result of her years in the sport. My youngest (that long, lean body) does not. It's just the opposite of what you've observed, but still illustrates the point I'm trying to make. . . different kids, different situations. Just because one got hurt doesn't mean the other will.

However, I do not think I could send my son to a facility that had allowed my daughter to be hurt to the point of permanent damage, especially if there hadn't been a change in ownership or at least a complete coaching overhaul.
 

mtbmom

Member
Feb 28, 2008
308
Bethlehem, PA
Is your son going to be at the same gym? If he is, this would concern me greatly. Has the doctor/coach left? What assurrances do you have that what happened to your daughter cannot happen to your son? Sure, you can take him to the sports doctor if he has pain, but what will happen if he hurts himself during practice? Will the coach tell him to suck it up and finish unless there's actual bone protruding?

I don't think I'd think I'd keep one child out of gymnastics because another had been hurt. My oldest (the compact body) has lots of knee pain as a result of her years in the sport. My youngest (that long, lean body) does not. It's just the opposite of what you've observed, but still illustrates the point I'm trying to make. . . different kids, different situations. Just because one got hurt doesn't mean the other will.

However, I do not think I could send my son to a facility that had allowed my daughter to be hurt to the point of permanent damage, especially if there hadn't been a change in ownership or at least a complete coaching overhaul.
Living, You make some very good points and I wholeheartedly agree!
 
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lauramum

Guest
Is your son going to be at the same gym? If he is, this would concern me greatly. Has the doctor/coach left? What assurrances do you have that what happened to your daughter cannot happen to your son?
No, there have been no changes-- I think you see why I hesitate to enroll my son!

There aren't as many options available for boys gymnastics as there are girls. I'd have to drive over an hour to get to another gym that had a quality boys program.

This is a well known gym--probably one you've heard of. The head coach I mentioned earlier is generally well respected (I know he teaches seminars at the national conferences). Overall it's a good program that produces many national champions and the seniors always leave the gym with scholarships. I don't mean to knock their program. Something went wrong with my daughter. She slipped through the cracks or something. I just can't let that happen again.

It's not so easy to leave this particular gym, because we're still pretty emeshed with it. My daughter's old coach (not the coach that misdiagnosed her) is a good friend of mine, my ballet son's best friend is on the boys team, my daughter is still in regular contact with her old teammates, I still find myself volunteering at their big invitational meet to see my old friends, etc. These gyms have a way of working themselves into you!

My oldest (the compact body) has lots of knee pain as a result of her years in the sport. My youngest (that long, lean body) does not. It's just the opposite of what you've observed, but still illustrates the point I'm trying to make. . . different kids, different situations. Just because one got hurt doesn't mean the other will.
Good point! There goes that lean vs. compact body theory!

However, I do not think I could send my son to a facility that had allowed my daughter to be hurt to the point of permanent damage, especially if there hadn't been a change in ownership or at least a complete coaching overhaul.
Yes, this is what is causing me to stress over a simple decision like boys preteam.

I did end up enrolling him yesterday. He was so happy! I pray I've made the right decision!
 

Livinatthegym

Member
Feb 4, 2008
204
Region IV
I'm going to bet the boys side of things is a whole 'nuther ball game. You will probably be fine, and right now your son is happy.

You are far more charitable than I could be about the girls side of things, though, Lauramum.

I would not care how many national team members and scholarship recipients that coach has taught nor how well known his program is. How many other children has he damaged in pursuit of his goals? The term "misdiagnosis" assumes there was a mistake. This coach knows he's not a doctor. There is no mistake here, but rather a wanton disregard for the well-being of a child under his supervision.
 
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