Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences
Safety in Gymnastics: Techniques & Equipment
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.
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.
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.
- Set boundaries for where practice occurs. The gym is much safer than the basement or the backyard at home.
- Don't train without appropriate supervision. Coaches are trained to keep everyone safe.
- Don't be afraid to rest if you need it. This is especially important for young children.
- Always warm up before training and cool down when finished. This will decrease the chance of injury due to practicing with tight muscles.
- Know your skill level and progress slowly. New skills require coaching, spotting, and lots of feedback for improvement. When learning a new piece of equipment, take things slow. For example, before jumping on the balance beam, start by practicing along a line on the floor. Then move on to a practice beam which sits about six inches above the floor. Once you're comfortable with that, move on to the regular balance beam with caution. Kids under 12 often learn better visually, so it may be beneficial to record their routine and then show them how they can improve.
- Recover from injuries completely before returning to training. Injuries stemming from overuse are common in gymnastics and only put a gymnast at risk for more serious injuries.
- Learn how to fall safely. This is one of the first skills a gymnast learns and it prevents both head and neck injuries.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Accidents happen and you don't want to hit someone else or, alternately, get hit by them.
- Address new pain before it gets worse.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Many gymnasts feel pressured to watch their weight but proper nutrition helps prevent injuries and helps the body heal itself faster if any injuries do occur.
- Wear appropriate clothing and secure your hair before training.
Use these tips to keep yourself safe and healthy in the gym.
Gymnastics is a fun and challenging sport that can be rife with injuries if gymnasts aren't careful. In order to avoid injuries, there is many personal safety equipment options, such as guards, grips, footwear, and spotting belts. Gyms can increase the safety of their gymnasts by supplying safe training areas, tumbling areas, mats, qualified coaches trained in spotting, and well-maintained equipment. Exercising both caution and common sense will help keep everyone in the gym safe and ensure they're still able to have fun.
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