When you’re spinning through the air on the uneven bars, twirling off of the vault, or practicing your floor routine, accidents happen in gymnastics. And the higher your competitive level, the more likely they can be.
Most gymnastics injuries are a result of repetitive muscle or joint stress. And for higher-level gymnasts, injuries have been known to occur in as much as 9% of training sessions.
That may not sound like a lot, but when you add up all of the hours of training, and the fact that the risk of injury is directly proportional to your competitive level, it is probably something you should consider more often.
Here are 11 essential safety tips to keep you injury free, no matter what level you are.
1. Watch Film of Yourself
One of the most underutilized gymnastics safety precautions is filming yourself. You can have a coach point out what you need to improve and the mistakes you’re making until they’re blue in the face. But sometimes, it’s not until they show it to you on video that it sinks in.
It’s particularly hard for young gymnasts to self-assess their mistakes (which make them injury-prone). Similarly, gymnasts moving to a new level struggle to “see” themselves properly.
Next time you're learning a new skill, consider removing some risk with video help.
2. Eat Plenty of Protein
Gymnastics is a high-pressure sport. There’s pressure to perform in competition, pressure to practice for hours on end, and pressure to stay in shape. In a misguided fight to stay thin, some gymnasts don’t eat properly or don’t eat enough.
Failing to get proper nutrition weakens your body. That makes you more susceptible to injury. A diet high in protein will help your body heal properly and build muscles to prevent injury.
3. Rest (Even If You Don’t Want to)
You want to push. You want to succeed. You want to learn new skills, move to the next level, and crush it in competition. But small strains and invisible hairline fractures that we can’t even feel can lead to worse injuries if we don’t let them heal.
Resting is one of the most underrated strength-building exercises. It is also one of the most important precautions against injuries.
You should always work your tail off, but remember to take a step back and rest when your body tells you to.
4. Focus on Core Strength
We all know that gymnastics is tough on the wrists. But with added stress on your back, having enough strength in your core is essential to injury prevention.
Focus on building up core strength. That will stabilize the back muscles that protect you from sprains and strains, which can lead to stress fractures in your vertebrae.
5. Protect Your Head
At no point should you put all of your weight on your head. Although head and neck injuries are rare for young gymnasts, the long-term effects of a neck or head injury is not worth the risk.
Without support, even simple bridges can put your head at risk. If you ever put weight on your head, always distribute some of your body weight to your hands, such as a tripod headstand.
6. Get the Proper Wrist Gear
Wrist straps, guards, grips, and supports all prevent injury. They also improve performance by solidifying your grip on the apparatus (whether it’s rings, the high bar, parallel bars, or uneven bars). They prevent blisters and skin tearing, as well.
7. The Best Gymnastics Footwear
Proper footwear can protect your toes, ankles, and the tiny bones in your feet. Vault shoes have a reinforced toe that absorbs the shock and pressure of landing. You can also wear rubber-soled shoes that protect against slipping on the balance beam.
8. Use Sporting Belts if Necessary
While learning new moves, your gym may have the infrastructure to support sporting belts. These heavy-duty belts hook into cables that attach to the ceiling and add an additional safety precaution for advanced maneuvers.
9. Keep Your Eyes On Other Gym Equipment
No matter how old you are, it’s part of your obligation to ensure your gym is set up safely. Coaches and parents should always speak up if they see something wrong. But sometimes, it’s up to you.
Make sure all apparatus equipment is spaced apart to keep you from colliding with other gymnasts.
The floors should be padded with mats.
Make sure the mats are dry and immobile, as they can become a slipping hazard if they are wet or mobile.
- Make sure someone used either non-slip liners or velcro to attach the pads.
10. Practice with Supervision
A coach will do more than just keep you safe as you practice. They can also give you tips to improve your form and technique. At the very least, have your parent or teammate watch you, especially as you try a new skill.
11. Rehabilitate Properly
If you do get injured, take your time to do the rehab your coaches and physical therapists prescribe. Coming back to the gym too quickly won’t do you any good. It will only lead to further injuries and more time on the sidelines. Let’s face it––nobody wants that.
Stop Gymnastics Injuries Before They Start
There is no better injury prevention than proper preparation and proper technique. With so many variables at play in gymnastics––rotations, launches, and twirls––it’s natural to want to push the limit. As a competitor, you should.
At US Glove, we understand that you want to keep yourself injury-free without compromising your performance. That’s why we offer a full menu of performance-enhancing gear that make you a safer, stronger, and better competitor.