Safety in Gymnastics: Techniques & Equipment

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Staying safe while practicing gymnastics is the key to success. In this lesson, we'll talk about personal safety equipment, training tips, and general gym safety. When practicing cautiously, gymnastics is both safe and fun!

Safety in Gymnastics

Gymnastics is a fun sport, both to do and to watch, but there are lots of risks involved. In fact, statistically speaking, the injury rates in gymnastics are similar to those in football and rugby. This shouldn't be surprising because gymnastics is physically demanding and requires frequent use of heavy equipment.

Wrist sprains, ankle sprains, and foot injuries are the most common types of injuries that gymnasts must deal with. However, they're also at risk for broken bones, torn ligaments, and injuries stemming from overuse.

In this lesson, we're going to talk about personal safety equipment used to keep gymnasts safe, as well as go over some general gym safety tips.

The layout of a gym is designed to maximize safety.

Personal Safety Equipment

Tumbling, flipping, and balancing tends to lead to a few falls every now and then. However, we can limit the impact of those falls by using protective equipment, some of which is apparatus-specific. For example, many gymnasts use wrist straps, guards, grips, and powder in order to improve their grip while decreasing any friction felt on the hands. Some gymnasts even use tape and gauze.

Protecting the hands is especially important for young kids and beginners because their hands aren't yet used to certain maneuvers.

A number of gymnasts opt to use footwear when practicing on the balance beam. The footwear may contain reinforced toes designed to support dismounts or rubber soles made to prevent slipping.

Spotting belts are also used when learning and practicing new tricks. The belts are hooked on to, and suspended from, the ceiling to prevent falls while learning, or practicing, new tricks.

Gym Safety Equipment

Any reputable gym is equipped with required safety equipment.

First and foremost, this includes possessing plenty of mats that are in good working order. Depending on their location, some mats should also be secured in place in order to avoid slipping.

Preventative maintenance should be performed regularly on all equipment, especially when it's been moved or adjusted. All pieces should be assembled in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications and adequately spaced out in order to avoid collisions. There should also be limits placed on how many people can use a particular piece of equipment at once.

Trampolines and foam pits are often used to practice new tricks and dismounts but it's necessary to make sure there is plenty of clearance to the ceiling.

Finally, all classes and all training should be overseen by qualified, experienced coaches. The risk of injury is too high to leave an inexperienced coach in charge.

One major role of the coach is to slowly teach gymnasts new tricks and provide them with spotting during practice.

For example, a gymnast learning to do a back handspring will always have a spotter in the event that he or she slips. The spotter is responsible for catching the gymnast before his or her head, or neck, hits the ground.

Even professional gymnasts still get spotted by their coaches.
Gymnastics spotter

General Gym Safety Tips

In addition to all of the safety equipment provided by the gym, there are multiple, practical gym safety tips that can be used to help decrease the likelihood of injury.

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