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Too much too soon? Xcel and knee pain

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jessimee

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My 8 year old DD joined Xcel at the beginning of June. She has been in Rec level 2 for two years prior, practicing 1.5 hours once a week. Now she has gone up to 6.5 hours/week. She loves bars and is acquiring skills quickly. First practice she "got" her squat-on, second practice was squat-on with jump to high bar. She has enough strength to do the skills and look pretty (this is my assessment when comparing her to her older sister who can throw lots of skills but not necessarily prettily) but I'm not sure she has the strength to do them without injuring herself. The last two practices she has been complaining about knee pain with landings and last night she kind of collapsed when landing the dismount from bars because it hurt her knees so bad. I know this is just part of the Xcel philosophy--at least at our gym. The idea seems to be that the kids learn as many skills as they can in summer, and then the coaches decide which group they will compete (bronze, silver, gold etc) and they spend fall and competition season perfecting the skills. My assessment of this may not be entirely accurate, but this is what last season for my older DD in silver looked like. I love our Xcel coaches for many reasons but I can't really get a read on how informed they are on "athletic training" in general (as opposed to just teaching gymnastics skills). I know that if she were to move to level 3, she would get the proper conditioning, as those coaches have an interest in the longevity of their athletes in the sport. But my DD is not interested in just doing one sport, (she is also a swimmer) AND she loves the adrenaline rush of learning new skills, so I don't think JO would be a good fit for her. I, as a parent, though, am concerned about her longevity in gymnastics and I don't want her leaving because of pain. Should I mention it to the coaches? Should I get her some physical therapy outside of gym? I have been an off and on Crossfitter (between 4 kids and a full time job to pay for said kids) and when I start up I usually have knee pain for a while until my quads get stronger. But as an adult, I'm able to modify my workouts as needed. She doesn't have the knowledge to do that and she has to do what the coaches tell her. Maybe her pain will go away as she gets stronger? Parents and coaches invited to chime in here with any thoughts. Thanks all!
 
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MUTigerMom

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Did she tell her coach about her knee pain? If not, please encourage her to tell her coaches anytime she feels pain. My daughter is also a 2 sport athlete (select soccer and gymnastics). She recently complained about some knee pain. I told her coach (because I was worried she wouldn't). He took her aside and explained to her that he will NEVER be upset with her for saying she is hurt BUT he WILL be absolutely angry with her if she doesn't tell him she is hurt. He checked with her frequently throughout practice and modified several of the stations and conditioning. His words, "I would rather you miss practice today because you need to rest your knee than to push through and miss weeks or months later because you cause a more serious injury."
 

M2Abi

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Agreed. She (or you) needs to tell her coaches that her knees are hurting. They can modify the workouts so that she isn't doing landings or is doing them on an easier surface. Our gym rule tends to be, "If it hurts, don't do it."
 

NY Dad

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as a parent, though, am concerned about her longevity in gymnastics and I don't want her leaving because of pain.
I think you meant that as a parent you're concerned about her well being.

I would definitely tell the coaches.

last night she kind of collapsed when landing the dismount from bars because it hurt her knees so bad. I know this is just part of the Xcel philosophy
I'm not an expert on Xcel (my dd has never competed nor have I been to any Xcel meets) but I can tell you that's not part of their philosophy.
If it were my dd and she expressed that she was in so much pain I may take her to the doctor to get checked out. She may have an injury. Is it both knees?

But as an adult, I'm able to modify my workouts as needed. She doesn't have the knowledge to do that and she has to do what the coaches tell her.
I agree with the first part (It takes a lot of experience to know the limit and there are probably some adults that still don't know when/how to modify) part but if she tells the coaches she's in pain they should modify/limit/have her stop doing whatever is causing the pain.
 

Madden3

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Here is what we did when my son had severe knee pain (twice) while doing competitive gymnastics. He ended up staying on competitive gym team for many years without pain and now does other impactful sports, pain free.
1) Took child to doctor
2) When got diagnosis, read up on the issue and the suggested treatments.
3) Talked to the coach about the diagnosis and how we would proceed.
4) Physical therapy.
5) Insisted son take time off of gym and/or only doing low impact skills depending on doctor recommendation. My son missed lots of practice. He missed meets. He had to do only low impact practices for a long time. But his knees are (apparently) in great shape after 7 years as a competitive gymnast.
 

jessimee

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Ok, thank you all for your replies. I will address it with the coaches.
 

wildcat22

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Our sports med gym dr always says if the pain happened suddenly (like she knows when it started), then he needs to see them right away. Otherwise, if it came on gradually, that little aches and pains should go away after 2 weeks and if they don't, then he needs to see them. If it were my daughter, if the pain was so bad she wasn't wanting to land dismounts, I'd be telling the coaches as well as making a dr appt immediately. Easier to take a few days off from practice now, than weeks/months later as they continued practicing with an injury.
 
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jessimee

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Ok, you all have made it clear, I should take her to the doctor as well. I didn't want to hear that, to be quite truthful. As a child, I had chronic knee pain and was carted around to multiple specialists and endured some very painful tests only to be told, "it's just an imbalance in muscle development". Which is why I hoped the coaches would have enough training in children's athletic training to be able to properly modify. But it sounds like you all think I should rule out something more serious before turning her over to the coaches? So thank you again. We often hear what we want to hear :) and we really have to listen in order to hear what we might not want to hear.
 

B&M's mom

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Find a specialist in pediatric knees. You might want to check with your local children's hospital. My DD had knee pain for years and it took a specialist in knees to finally figure out that her knee cap was actually going in and out of place. Testing these days is much easier due to the advancements in imaging.
 
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gymgal

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obviously in the minority here but I don't think you necessarily need to run her to the dr right away especially it doesn't appear to be an injury from a specific incident, but more of an overuse type of issue. I would want more info first. Does it hurt on other events. Is it both knees? Does it hurt to run or when she is doing other activities (including kicking for swimming). Gymnastics is hard on the joints and connective tissues and it may very well be that she is just progressing too quickly without allowing her body to adjust. I would let the coaches know so they can modify that event for her. See if that eliminates the pain and then gradually increase the skills/drills again. If it starts hurting again, then the dr is the next step to rule out any major issue.

ETA: now, if your dd can pinpoint a time where it started hurting, then that would indicate an injury rather than overuse and would warrant a trip to the dr right away.
 

jessimee

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obviously in the minority here but I don't think you necessarily need to run her to the dr right away especially it doesn't appear to be an injury from a specific incident, but more of an overuse type of issue. I would want more info first. Does it hurt on other events. Is it both knees? Does it hurt to run or when she is doing other activities (including kicking for swimming). Gymnastics is hard on the joints and connective tissues and it may very well be that she is just progressing too quickly without allowing her body to adjust. I would let the coaches know so they can modify that event for her. See if that eliminates the pain and then gradually increase the skills/drills again. If it starts hurting again, then the dr is the next step to rule out any major issue.

ETA: now, if your dd can pinpoint a time where it started hurting, then that would indicate an injury rather than overuse and would warrant a trip to the dr right away.
There was no specific injury--kind of a gradual increase in complaints. And it is both knees. I tend to distrust doctors so I don't always trust my own judgement with regards to when I need to take the kids. I also know nothing about gymnastics and gymnastics-specific injuries (both acute and over-use) and their long term consequences. So I do appreciate your perspective as well. This DD swims and her best strokes are fly and breast. Older DD had knee pain from improper breast stroke form. Physical therapy (and multiple doctor visits) fixed it, but as soon as the PT stopped, the pain came back. It took some private lessons with a Master's coach to correct her kick to actually eliminate the pain. I know each kid is different. This kiddo, for a number of reasons that I wont go into, is my one that for her well-being (someone in an earlier comment mentioned that:)), I feel needs to be engaged in a sport that will offer her the opportunity to occupy a good bit of her time, develop long-term friends, and give her the adrenaline she seeks. So, my desire to help her find a way to succeed in gym is about looking out for her well being, to the best of my ability. Sorry to be so rambling on this. As you all probably get, the rest of my friends and family aren't as interested in the gymnastics stuff.
 
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NY Dad

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I know each kid is different. This kiddo, for a number of reasons that I wont go into, is my one that for her well-being (someone in an earlier comment mentioned that:)), I feel needs to be engaged in a sport that will offer her the opportunity to occupy a good bit of her time, develop long-term friends, and give her the adrenaline she seeks. So, my desire to help her find a way to succeed in gym is about looking out for her well being, to the best of my ability.
I assumed that's what you meant but there was a lot of room for interpretation. Thanks for elaborating.
 

eucoach

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As a child, I had chronic knee pain and was carted around to multiple specialists and endured some very painful tests only to be told, "it's just an imbalance in muscle development". Which is why I hoped the coaches would have enough training in children's athletic training to be able to properly modify.
This is exactly why you need to take her to a (good) doctor!
Imbalance in muscle development is something that a PT can work wonders with. If you had this as a child, it might very well be that your daughter has the same!
Coaches are not trained to discover these kinds of things. They might suspect something but can and should not diagnose.
One of my gymnasts had bad knee pain which was the result of her outer thigh muscle being too weak. She got a set of specific exercises and after 2 months she was completely pain free.
 
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