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Young Level 5

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Feb 15, 2007
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My almost 6 yr old (in sep) just recently "officially" made the level 5 team at our gym. She still can't compete for another year and a half but she will be able to progress on the level 5 track and then when she is ready, level 6. I am hoping that other parents of young gymnasts can provide advice to help avoid/limit overuse injuries... Our coaches already limit repetitions for their girls and use mats for most of power tumbling. Does anyone visit an orthopaedic dr. on a regular basis? If yes, then what types of ?'s are most important to ask? and for the gym what do you really need to watch out for? Which excercises/skills are the worst on the body?
 
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hammy

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I was one of those young guys, but I never really had any overuse injuries until I had been doing gym for 13 years and was a level 10. I was one of those gymnasts who always took extra turns when no one else was going and I came in extra to do private lessons with my coach. I've found the best way to limit overuse injuries is to do rehabilitation exercises either for a team strength workout or on your own. Also, stretching out wrists, ankles, shoulders, etc before practicing is always a must, and it helps prevent injury.

I only went to the ortopedic doc when I got injured. If there are any physical therapists in the gym ask them for some exercises to strengthen ankles, wrists, and backs--those are 3 major overuse injury areas--shoulders are also common once the gymnast reaches a higher level.

If i may ask, why can't your daughter compete yet if she's six years old in Sept. Come Sept she should technically be able to compete in USAG sanctioned competitions. Does your gym have a policy type issue where they don't let the gymnasts compete until they're older?

As far as skills and what not that tend to kill the body...hmmm. I'd have to say backhandsprings, vaults, and handstanding things, but as a compulsary gymnast there shouldn't be too much to worry about in the sense of overuse. Once the gymnasts reach optionals (level 7-10) they do skills that pound on the body more and what not--that's when the overuse comes into play more often.

Good luck and congratulations!
 

gym law mom

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We try and avoid the ortho if we can. My 10 yo has had 2 episodes of Jumper's knee this year---directly related to growing and impact. Don't discount that just because she's turning 6, she is not in any way doing some damage to her body. Some kids seem to get through the growth stages just fine and others struggle. For ankles and knees, the most aggravating events are floor and vault. Doing just the dance part of the floor routine and doing more tumbling on the tumble trak can certainly decrease pounding on the legs.

We did have a pediatric ortho come and talk with our parents group. Basically, she said there is routine soreness associated with getting a new skill or coming back to practice after a 2 week break. Then there is abnormal pain and parents and coaches need to watch for this. Your daughter is a little young for growth related pain---usually shows up in the heels between 8-10 yo, then knees and finally lower back about 11-13. Her advice is to keep a growth chart for your child. Measure them once a month and if you note some growth and say heel pain, you may have the answer. She said it also explains why a girl will come home frustrated that she can't do a skill she had been able to do 3 mos ago or is now afraid of a skill.

Her advice is to ice the painful area, give ibuprofen on a regular basis(not just as needed) and pull back on skills etc. that make the pain worse or cause it. She said if no improvement after 2 wks, then see a doctor.
 
Feb 15, 2007
222
I was one of those young guys, but I never really had any overuse injuries until I had been doing gym for 13 years and was a level 10. I was one of those gymnasts who always took extra turns when no one else was going and I came in extra to do private lessons with my coach. I've found the best way to limit overuse injuries is to do rehabilitation exercises either for a team strength workout or on your own. Also, stretching out wrists, ankles, shoulders, etc before practicing is always a must, and it helps prevent injury.

I only went to the ortopedic doc when I got injured. If there are any physical therapists in the gym ask them for some exercises to strengthen ankles, wrists, and backs--those are 3 major overuse injury areas--shoulders are also common once the gymnast reaches a higher level.

If i may ask, why can't your daughter compete yet if she's six years old in Sept. Come Sept she should technically be able to compete in USAG sanctioned competitions. Does your gym have a policy type issue where they don't let the gymnasts compete until they're older?

As far as skills and what not that tend to kill the body...hmmm. I'd have to say backhandsprings, vaults, and handstanding things, but as a compulsary gymnast there shouldn't be too much to worry about in the sense of overuse. Once the gymnasts reach optionals (level 7-10) they do skills that pound on the body more and what not--that's when the overuse comes into play more often.

Good luck and congratulations!
Thanks Hammy, my dd is very excited because she will get to continue working with her group... level 5 is all she has talked about for the last few months. Funny how a simple phrase or a new title can thrill a child... USAG does not let a 6 yr old compete level 5, at least not anymore.... you have been in the sport for quite a while so perhaps it was different when you were a child? Not competing is just fine with me, because while she will lack the "show" experience, emotionally I want to keep her from thinking a score determines your worth for just a little longer...

Thanks for the tips on stretching out wrists, ankles, shoulders prior to working out. I am going to make sure she does more stretching exercises - I don't think I have ever seen them stretch out the wrists in practice before, but she used to in rec gym.

I remember you saying once that you had some back problems - do you still have any problems? It sounds as if you would not have done anything differently because you loved the sport so much which is so nice to hear...
 
Feb 15, 2007
222
We try and avoid the ortho if we can. My 10 yo has had 2 episodes of Jumper's knee this year---directly related to growing and impact. Don't discount that just because she's turning 6, she is not in any way doing some damage to her body. Some kids seem to get through the growth stages just fine and others struggle. For ankles and knees, the most aggravating events are floor and vault. Doing just the dance part of the floor routine and doing more tumbling on the tumble trak can certainly decrease pounding on the legs.

We did have a pediatric ortho come and talk with our parents group. Basically, she said there is routine soreness associated with getting a new skill or coming back to practice after a 2 week break. Then there is abnormal pain and parents and coaches need to watch for this. Your daughter is a little young for growth related pain---usually shows up in the heels between 8-10 yo, then knees and finally lower back about 11-13. Her advice is to keep a growth chart for your child. Measure them once a month and if you note some growth and say heel pain, you may have the answer. She said it also explains why a girl will come home frustrated that she can't do a skill she had been able to do 3 mos ago or is now afraid of a skill.

Her advice is to ice the painful area, give ibuprofen on a regular basis(not just as needed) and pull back on skills etc. that make the pain worse or cause it. She said if no improvement after 2 wks, then see a doctor.
This is exactly why I appreciate this web site so much... thanks gym law mom. I am more stressed because her training time will go from 8 hrs to 15 hrs a week, she wants this so much right now... but I have to ultimately make the decision to let her. Obviously more structured time means more structured pounding. I am guessing though that the coaches will just add more dance, they will learn and perfect their routines and there will only be an hour more of floor added to each week... which is what I am hoping but because our program is still so new we really won't know until we "get there". Your gym starts at level 5 as well correct?

I only have what I read on the web and what I see in our own gym to gather info so I do appreciate all of the info that I collect here from the more experienced gymnasts, coaches and parents....

I am curious if anyone has ever seen a chiropractor for their aches and pains associated with gymnastics. There is a girl on team that trained only level 5 last year and is now training level 6, well her back is causing her excruciating pain. Her mom says its because she learned too many new skills too fast and she sees a chiropractor twice a week... she says it is getting better but she has completely stopped doing any power tumbling and just works on strength training while the other girls do floor. Does anyone have any good/bad opinions about chiropractors?
 

bluefeet

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May 14, 2007
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My daughter had her first experience with a chiropractor last month, after reoccurring nagging lower back problems.

I have to be honest - I've personally carried reservations about the practice, but admittedly on no solid ground. I was careful not to share this with Steph.

I was in the room with them during the initial exam. While the 'findings' and the descriptions of the resulting problems sounded plausible, the entire experience seemed akin to a well scripted infomercial, considering the barrage of things that were being put out there & the speed at which he moved.

This office had what was described as the latest in technology. This little hand held device that send small reverberations to the spin...displaying on a monitor the misalignment's. He went on to use the same device to make 'adjustments' - where this device basically thumped her at the problem points. Steph basically was giving me this 'I don't get it' look during the procedure...later saying she really didn't feel much.

He did do one manual adjustment on the table, fully stretching one flexed leg fully over the straight leg, on both sides.

On her way out she was taken to a room with a few rolling pin type beds to 'relax' her muscles. After the doc left the room, she asked if she could get off because it was hurting her.

We made the follow-up appointment as instructed and left. The next day she called me crying from school to come pick her up. She was in excruciating pain and couldn't sit down. Steph refuses to go back.

So....I really don't know what to suggest, but you did ask for experiences :p. I have a few adult friends that swear by them, going multiple times per month. We could have just chosen poorly I guess.
 
M

Megley

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LGCM, just wanted to say congratulations to your daughter. I am sure she is super excited. Also thanks for posting this topic. I too am interested in what others have to say on the topic as my 5 yo will be going to 12 hours a week shortly for L4 training. They have not done much tumbling yet, but that will change as they start practicing the RO/BHS and vault more often. I think Hammy is right that optionals is where the pounding can become a real issue. I just watched some videos of a 10 yo who is pre-elite and she is doing double backs, whips, and lots of twisting somersaults on floor, as well as BHS, back tucks and aerials on beam. I think that she practices upwards of 30 hours a week - that is a lot of pounding on a young body.

Meg
 

gym law mom

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This is just my opinion as a RN regarding chiros. They are just glorified massage therapists. If your back is a little sore, get a massage---probably cheaper and better. Chiropractors are supposed to be limited to working on backs only, but many will convince you that some other little ache or pain is related to your vertebrae being out of alignment or whatever. Most insurance plans only cover a small part of their fee if any.

I would absolutely NOT take a child to a chiro. They don't have specific training in pediatric chiro therapy and kid's bodies are different than adults until they're in their late teens. If your child has some mild back soreness ask what they are doing in the gym. Once they increase skills that require hyperflexion(BWO, BHS etc), they may have some muscle soreness. Ice their back after every practice and make sure they stretch out before/after practice. If the pain gets worse or localizes(especially right over the spine) they need to see a doctor, get x-rays done and possibly do some PT. What the medical community is seeing now is almost an explosion of back injuries among young teens. Sports like figure skating, gymnastics---kids doing dance(ie hip hop).

One of our L10s suffered a compression fx. of her back when she missed a release move. That is scary enough(I think she just turned 14). When they did the MRI to diagnose the injury, they found she had a healed fracture in her back that was several years old. So now at age 14, they have to decide whether or not to continue in gymnastics. She is at a big risk for future back problems if she stays in gymnastics and can probably count on some back pain when she's in her 30s even if she quits.
 
B

bpatient

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You are conducting an interesting experiment with your child as the subject. Here's what Bill Sands, who has studied the issue for years, has to say: "The optimum training of children is perhaps the most important problem facing contemporary gymnastics for women... The typical gymnastics coach in the US has a college degree, but no formal training in coaching, child development, injury prevention, injury rehabilitation, conditioning, periodisation, or many other important aspects of work with child gymnasts." [Sands WA. Injury prevention in women's gymnastics. Sports Medicine 2000;30(6):359-373]

Other than helping her choose to avoid high volume training, perhaps the best way to help your young daughter to mimimize the frequency and severity of her injuries would be to find one of the (rare, according to Sands) coaches who thoroughly understands the gymnastics-related areas that Sands think are important aspects of safe training for children, rather than just gymnastics.
 
Feb 15, 2007
222
Hey Meg - Tx!! she is very excited... I agree about optionals as well. I guess that will have to be a bridge we have to cross at some time as well huh? :D Right now we still only spend about 20 minutes 4 times a week on power stuff (when I say power it is certainly not a great deal of difficulty - only ro's, rh bhs's, dive roll & f hs's.) and our team has grown so there is a lot of standing between... the rest of the floor is flex, strength and conditioning.... when they produced "the list" with the girls moving up that showed the 15 hour schedule I was relieved and worried all the same - originally I thought they may go drastic like their original 27 hour a week schedule which I knew we could no way take part in, I really hoped they would do no more then a 12 hour week... but, well I figure if we need to miss during the week we just will. I think it will be a little more, still some waiting around and more dance elements though, not too much to worry about, but I will monitor... when do you guys start your new schedule??
 
Feb 15, 2007
222
I definately wanted chiro experiences, thanks for sharing... :confused: I really feel similar about chiropractors... I am sure some are great and work for some, but my dad took me when I was a kid and I HATED it! of course I know that things have changed a great deal since then... :rolleyes:

The girl I was referring to interested me because she is 15 and took rec classes for years - about 7 .... then switched over to comp gym a year ago. Only one year of comp. gymnastics and she is in so much pain?? Her mom says it was learning so many new skills too fast, but it made me wonder if (and gym law mom confirmed) that all children are different. Some get through with little to no problems and some are plagued with injuries... I hate to think what their chiro bill is going 2 x's a week, but I saw her at practice tonight and she left early crying because she still hurt so bad... it does not seem to be helping, I am sure they know how to handle their situation though... I just feel bad for her, because she loves gymnastics so much. I know that gymnasts do it, but I (having a low tolerance for pain) could not... I have a ton of respect for gymnasts!
 
M

Megley

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Right now we still only spend about 20 minutes 4 times a week on power stuff (when I say power it is certainly not a great deal of difficulty - only ro's, rh bhs's, dive roll & f hs's.) and our team has grown so there is a lot of standing between... the rest of the floor is flex, strength and conditioning.... when they produced "the list" with the girls moving up that showed the 15 hour schedule I was relieved and worried all the same - originally I thought they may go drastic like their original 27 hour a week schedule which I knew we could no way take part in, I really hoped they would do no more then a 12 hour week... but, well I figure if we need to miss during the week we just will. I think it will be a little more, still some waiting around and more dance elements though, not too much to worry about, but I will monitor... when do you guys start your new schedule??
That doesn't sound like too much just yet. I think optionals - maybe Level 6 to some extent - is where the serious tumbling starts. Because L is doing Level 4, we aren't doing dive rolls yet - just RO/BHS. L has taught herself a FHS but they aren't doing them because it isn't in the Level 4 routine. We start our summer schedule at the end of June after school lets out. It's 3 days x 4 hours and from what I understand there's a lot of strength training along with the work on routines.

Chiming in on the chiropractor issue, I tend to agree that it's a waste of money for "adjustment" purposes. I've seen one but only because he also performed ART (Active Release Technique), which is a method of treating soft tissue injuries commonly suffered by runners (like piriformis syndrome and plantar fasciitis). I wouldn't send my kids there. I think that the best thing to do is monitor your DD and make sure she isn't complaining of any pain. If she is, then you may need to see an orthopoedist to make sure that nothing is wrong. It sounds like they are currently not doing too much power tumbling so you don't have to worry too much yet. Our Level 5s do 16 hours a week so that sounds right in line with what your gym is proposing. One of them is quite young - turned 6 in February - and seems to be handling the hours well so I'm sure your DD will be fine. And as you mention, you may miss some practices for other family events. I know we will miss an entire week when we are on vacation. I think it's good for the kids to get a break every now and then. :)

Meg
 
Feb 15, 2007
222
Meg,

a will start her new schedule 2nd week of june... they will go 3 hours per day for 5 days. I think 3 hours will be perfect for her - not too much. I went back and read other posts about hours in the gym, and it does seem pretty comparable to other gyms. There was a time when I could not imagine why they need so much time in the gym, but as I go along I get it more and more. Now that we have added more girls to practice a lot more time is eaten up, especially if anyone needs a spot for their bad leg or just trying to focus on tightness, or whatever. We run out of time now and the girls come in a half hour before class and still stay after a few minutes as well. We completely stopped vault because time is gone.... so with more hours everything should be able to fit. + actually learning the routines and putting it all together. They can't all do it at the same time so there goes more time... the more I think about it the better I feel, less I am worried.
 
D

dazed

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omg

I hadn't really given much thought to what gymnastics can do to a child's body. Even if a child shows no problems while young, or suffers no major injuries, will they be a broken wreck when they reach thier 30's or younger?! Not that I'm thinking of pulling my dd out of this wonderful sport mind you.
 
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bpatient

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I hadn't really given much thought to what gymnastics can do to a child's body. Even if a child shows no problems while young, or suffers no major injuries, will they be a broken wreck when they reach thier 30's or younger?!
Cross-sectional studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the majority of even mid-level (i.e., club) gymnasts develop overuse injuries, but most such injuries may can heal if the gymnast takes off sufficient time from the sport. Long term effects are unclear, since the majority of kids who would be identified as gymnasts in such studies are those who have remained healthy enough to stay in the sport; most of those who left due to injury wouldn't be available for studies of gymnasts.
 
Feb 15, 2007
222
I hadn't really given much thought to what gymnastics can do to a child's body. Even if a child shows no problems while young, or suffers no major injuries, will they be a broken wreck when they reach thier 30's or younger?! Not that I'm thinking of pulling my dd out of this wonderful sport mind you.
Dazed, there are problems in every sport, not just gymnastics... I personally think that gymnastics is a beautiful & healthy sport that can continue with a child long after they stop... let your dd be your guide and as long as she is the one that wants this and continues to be happy and ultimately enjoys what she is doing then all is well:)
 

gym law mom

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Yes, I agree LGCM---all sports have their problems and we as parents are the only advocates our kids have. The same orthopedic surgeon that gave the tips on keeping a growth chart etc. also said she is seeing boys coming in at age 11 or 12 with serious rotator cuff and elbow injuries from trying to throw baseballs at a speed that is more realistic for a 15 yo.

The cumulative injuries are certianly the most difficult to monitor and usually you as a parent have no idea there is a problem until your child is having alot of discomfort---and it doesn't go away. Of course, most of these girls are ultra competitive and will keep practicing even though they hurt. They don't want to say anything to mom/dad because we may make them sit out a few practices and see a doctor.

I've found that just dropping in on practice is a way to see if there is any physical problem. Is the child limping or walking around with an ice pack on their wrist? Do they complain about skills they are struggling with and could do with no problem a few weeks before? Does the coach say, "she seems to be holding back/not working as hard as usual?" These can all be little tips that something is hurting and you may have to play 20 questions to figure it out, but its in your child's best interest to take the time. Be vigilant no matter what level your child is at-----then they can get the most out of the sport feeling healthy. Its tough---there is a fine line between being overprotective and "push through the pain."
 
B

bpatient

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omg,

It may be that the parents of most new gymnasts don’t appreciate the prevalence of injuries in the sport. Some few—like littlegymchampsmom, who inquired regarding the best way to help her daughter with the injuries that she expects her to accrue—clearly understand some of the risks, but I suspect that the majority of starry-eyed parents may not have heard that, say, gymnastics has one of the highest injury rates among NCAA sports, that spinal injuries are a serious problem among girls who remain healthy enough to advance to higher levels in the sport, or that medical studies indicate that at any given time half of female team-level gymnasts suffer from wrist pain (and that most of these girls suffer for long periods—although they may not tell their coaches or their parents).



All we have, then, are snapshots. You might be interested in the December 2004 articles in the Orange County Register, for which about half of the roughly 300 members of the 1984-2004 Junior and Senior women’s national teams were interviewed. It’s painful reading: Almost all (93%) of the women who were interviewed reported breaking bones or requiring surgery for their gymnastics injuries, and three-fourths of those women continued to experience health problems related to gymnastics. Other medical studies suggest the risks related to gymnastics: for example, 12 of the 19 gymnasts invited to a recent national training camp had spinal problems such as degenerative disk disease. Oops.

The present situation is bad. The parents of most young gymnasts are either unaware of this or blithley accept it.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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Do you have links to these studies? I'd like to read them.
 
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bpatient

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Geoffrey,

References for the statements in my earlier post include:

Bennett DL, Nassar L, DeLano MC. Lumbar spine MRI in the elite-level female gymnast with low back pain. Skeletal Radiol. 2006 Jul;35(7):503-9.

Caine D, DiFiori J, Maffulli N. Physeal injuries in children's and youth sports: reasons for concern?
Br J Sports Med. 2006 Sep;40(9):749-60.

DiFiori JP. Overuse injury and the young athlete: the case of chronic wrist pain in gymnasts. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2006 Jun;5(4):165-7

DiFiori JP, Caine DJ, Malina RM. Wrist pain, distal radial physeal injury, and ulnar variance in the young gymnast. Am J Sports Med. 2006 May;34(5):840-9

DiFiori JP, Puffer JC, Aish B, Dorey F. Wrist pain in young gymnasts: frequency and effects upon training over 1 year. Clin J Sport Med. 2002 Nov;12(6):348-53

The infamous Orange County Register article can be found here: http://www.ocregister.com/investigations/2004/gymnastics/

E-mail me if you don't have access to a medical library; I can provide you with some more information.
 
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