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There are a few articles on this page for parents:

Health and Development

Gymnastics is a lot of fun and provides kids and teenagers with great exercise. Although gymnastics is always popular, in the months following every Olympics, gymnastic studios see a big increase in interest. Kids watch the competition and get excited about trying out the sport. And who could blame them? Watching talented gymnasts do a series of floor exercises or master the various types of apparatus can be thrilling.

Getting Started

Gymnastics classes are offered for children of all ages, beginning with toddlers. For the little ones, "Tiny Tots Tumbling" is usually a fun filled experience aimed at letting kids learn a few of the basics. As they get a bit older, kids can participate in classes designed to enhance their skills. By the time that they are teenagers, kids who have been taking gymnastics classes for a number of years will likely be quite proficient. Classes for kids and teens are readily available and be easily found by doing a quick internet search. Simply go to your favourite search engine and type in "gymnastics class" along with the name of a good sized town near you. You'll be surprised at how many classes are available close to home.

Setting Goals

For most kids, the goals of gymnastics classes should be fitness and fun. If a child displays a great deal of promise, the parents can consider hiring a professional coach to help take their ability to the next level. Be careful not to let your child's enthusiasm for gymnastics become all-consuming. As with all sports, many kids participate, but very few will be blessed with both the talent and good fortune to take it to an Olympic level. Just let them have fun.

What's Involved?

Gymnastics encompasses a variety of activities, which vary for boys and girls. Typically, men and boys perform on the horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, rings, vault, and floor exercises. Girls and women gymnasts do floor exercises and vault, as well as the balance beam and uneven bars. For both genders, gymnastics provides an overall body conditioning workout.


In addition to enhancing physical fitness, participation in gymnastics gives kids body confidence and promotes self esteem. As children's skills progress, they become increasingly confident in their physical abilities. This confidence often spills over into other areas of the child's life, improving their performance in many areas. Kids and teens who are self confident are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, develop an eating disorder, or falter academically. Quality Coaching Whether your child is just beginning to enjoy gymnastics or has been working on improving their skills for a number of years, capable coaches are necessary. It is important that your child's instructors take the time to teach kids to warm up and stretch muscles properly to avoid injury and to focus on overall conditioning rather than just mastering gymnastic moves. A good coach will also find the right balance between challenging the kids to strive for improvement while keeping the focus on fun. If you are considering gymnastics classes for your child, check with friends for recommendations. There is no better referral than a satisfied customer!

Source: http://www.growingkids.co.uk/Gymnastics.html

Child And Adolescent Gymnastics: How to avoid injury

Now that your child wants to join his or her friends in gymnastics, what concerns should you have about injuries? Although children benefit physically, mentally, and socially from participating in this activity, they can develop injuries if they train too hard. Any part of the body can be injured if it is used too much. With gymnasts, the most common overuse injuries involve the shoulders, elbows, wrists, back, and ankles.

In gymnastics, participants must develop flexibility, balance, and strength. The most successful gymnasts are those who are naturally flexible. However, exercising those naturally flexible joints too much, especially the shoulders, can make them become too loose. The ligaments, or tissue that holds bones together, can be stretched to the point that they no longer hold the bones in the correct position. For example, if the ligaments in your shoulder are stretched too much, they will not hold the arm in its socket when you move it certain ways. This allows your shoulder to dislocate, or come out of joint. Dislocation can lead to serious injuries. To prevent dislocation of any joint, you need to strengthen the muscles surrounding that joint. When the muscles are strong, they will hold the joint together, even if the ligaments are stretched.

Back bends and other activities that cause the spine to curve backward can cause fractures of the spine in young gymnasts (5 to 7 years old). These fractures do not cause problems at that young age and may go unnoticed for years. However, teenagers who remain active in gymnastics may develop back pain because of these earlier fractures. Teenage gymnasts may need bracing or surgery to treat the fractures. A good way to prevent this injury is to not allow children to do deep back bends until they are at least 7 years old.

Activities such as vaulting and tumbling may cause the wrist to hyperextend, or bend back too far. The bones of the wrist are forced back to the point of hitting the bones of the forearm. Having this happen over and over causes the wrist to become sore so that these activities are painful. Gymnasts may wear splints on their wrists during such activities to prevent their wrists from being forced backward so far.

Only in gymnastics do athletes bear all their weight on their arms. Handstands, vaulting, and other activities place tremendous pressure on the elbows. The pressure can damage the joints and cause the contact surfaces to become soft or weak. The damaged areas may or may not be painful at first, but a piece of the bone or hardened cartilage may break loose in the joint. If the problem is detected before the piece comes loose, the athlete is told to rest and limit training activities. If the loose piece causes pain or causes the joint to catch, it is usually removed during surgery. The damaged surface of the bone can lead to problems in later life, like arthritis or joint degeneration.

During dismounts and landings, gymnasts can sprain their ankles or develop stress fractures, which are fractures that occur slowly from repetitive trauma and that cause a weak spot in the bone. Ankle sprains re first treated with splinting and rest. Next, athletes strengthen the muscles round the ankle, and then they study heir landing techniques with their aches so changes can be made. Stress fractures are usually treated by having the athlete rest and avoid hard and landings on the affected leg.

When gymnasts train on one apparatus or in one activity continuously during a training session, they lose some concentration and tend to get injured more often. During long training sessions, gymnasts should change their activities and equipment many times to prevent injuries.

With proper supervision and conditioning, most of these young athletes will be able to enjoy participating in gymnastics for many years.

Source: Ellen M. Raney, M.D., Tampa, Florida, http://www.hughston.com/hha/a.gym.htm

The Role of Gymnastics Parents

In a recent article, I wrote of the many benefits of participating in a Gymnastics program. The skill development, physical benefits, social improvements and cognitive development of young athletes was outlined. Signing a child up for a Gymnastics class is a major first step toward a healthy lifestyle. What happens then? Research strongly suggests that parents play the largest role in influencing the development and healthy socialization of their children involved in sports. Selecting a Gymnastics program that provides a safe and nurturing environment is a primary concern but a parent’s responsibility does not end there. What are the next steps a parent can take to ensure a positive experience for their child?

The Role of Gymnastics Parents

A study led by Benjamin Bloom in 1985, Developing Talent in Young People, looked at how talent manifests and is developed in young people. The study divided the careers of talented young people (in art, music, mathematics and sports) into three stages: early, middle and later. Using terminology from Alfred North Whitehead, we call them the Romantic, the Technical, and the Mature stages.

  • The Romantic Stage is the beginning. The child just loves the sport. She can’t wait to get to the gym; she practices her cartwheels and handstands at every opportunity. The child experiences immediate success. She is better at this activity than her peers, which increases her enthusiasm for participating in it. As Bloom puts it for the swimmers he studied, “these are the years of playful encounter with the sport….” Enjoyment is critical. “Had there been no excitement during the early years… there would never have been a middle or later period.” One swimmer remarked, “Practices were fun… you’re having so much fun that you don’t realize you’re exhausted.” A child’s self-appraisal of ability (self-esteem) is directly related to a parent’s judgment of their child’s physical ability (Felson & Reed, 1986). As a child’s perceived competency in gymnastics is a key factor in continued participation on to the next stage of development; two factors are critical – successful task completion and parental support (Horn & Harris, 1996). At a certain point, someone, often a parent, but typically a recruiting coach, notices talent in the child, this often leads to the middle or Technical Stage.
  • The Technical Stage is inaugurated by the appearance of the technically-proficient coach who is brought into the picture to ensure that things are done correctly. The transition from sport as fun to developing the proper technique is where many kids drop out. As the focus moves to technical proficiency, all too often the sport becomes more like a job and less like a wonderfully fun experience. The joy goes out of the experience, and the child removes himself from the sports experience as soon as he is able. As children enter this stage, parental feedback continues to be critical in shaping their child’s self-perception (Stipek & MacIver, 1989). It is important that the parent’s feedback be directed toward task completion rather than comparisons to others or the correct technique. In other words, leave the coaching to the coaches. Parents must remain involved in a firm and consistent manner, enforcing guidelines, limits and appropriate expectations (Baumrind, 1978).
  • The Mature Stage: Here the child has developed her talent to the point where she is performing at a high level on a grand stage at the national or maybe even the worldwide level. Most kids never make it to this stage. Why? For some, it is a lack of talent or interest, but a majority of the kids who do have the talent do not make it to this stage because they have lost the joy in playing, which powers the commitment and effort needed to become great. Most youth with talent never reach the Mature Stage because fun is sacrificed in the technical stage.
Perhaps the most important lesson for parents here is that you need to manage the transition from the Romantic to the Technical Stage. Make sure your child isn’t rushed into the Technical Stage. A child expected to “work” at the sport too soon is more likely to turn off and never reach the Mature Stage. A too-early focus on technique can drain the enjoyment that fuels the drive for excellence. A parent should provide their children with a variety of opportunities and multiple chances to achieve success in the early years of sport participation (McCullagh, Matzkanin, Shaw & Moldanado, 1993). Parents need to offer lots of positive feedback. There are drawbacks though; research indicates that as peer comparisons become increasingly more important to the young athlete, by about the age of 9, children become more evaluative of parent feedback. If positive feedback is not accurate, does not match performance, then the parent’s involvement could actually be detrimental to the child’s perception of their sport competence (Horn & Harris, 1996). Parents must give encouraging but honest and accurate feedback.

Talent is not often obvious at an early age. Bloom stated: “One of the most startling discoveries of our study has been that it takes a while to recognize swimming talent.” Only 10% or less of the athletes could be confidently identified as gifted by the age of 11 or 12. One coach didn’t recognize how talented a swimmer was even after working with her for five years (she went on to make the Olympics). Remember, Kathy Johnson (bronze medalist on floor exercise, 1978 World Championships and team silver medalist and balance beam bronze medalist, 84 Olympics) did not begin her gymnastics career until she was 13 years old – fairly late considering the talent she subsequently demonstrated.

Many kids have great potential. Support makes the difference: Perhaps the most interesting assertion Bloom makes is most children (95%) have the ability to approximate the achievements of the talented youth with proper encouragement. What is the difference between the children who reach the stage where their talent blooms forth and those who don’t? These children experienced something from their parents that seemed to make a huge difference.

“So far as we can tell, this willingness to give encouragement and support on the part of the parents (and siblings) is one of the major distinctions between the families of these Olympic swimmers and other families.” “…no matter what the initial characteristics (or gifts) of the individuals, unless there is a long and intensive process of encouragement, nurturance, education and training, the individuals will not attain extreme levels of capabilities in these particular fields.” The research is very clear – what a parent says and does have a tremendous influence on their child. The more you as a parent support your children, the more your children will reach the highest level of talent development possible for them.

Source: Michael A. Taylor is a USAG Kinder Accreditation for Teachers (KAT & MELPD) Instructor, serves on the USA Gymnastics PreSchool Advisory Panel, is a USA Gymnastics National Safety Instructor, serves on the USA Gymnastics Safety Review Board, is a USAG PDP I Video Clinic Administrator, an American Red Cross CPR/First Aid and Sport Safety Instructor, and an American Sport Education Program Coaching Principles (PDP II) Instructor. Michael is a Certified National Youth Sports Administrator; an Instructor for the Stanford University based Positive Coaching Alliance, a long-time member of the United States Elite Coaches Association and a former gym owner. He is currently a Senior Recreation Supervisor for the City of Menlo Park that includes the 1600 student Gymnastics program in Menlo Park, CA. A Certified Pool Operator and a licensed National Playground Safety Inspector, Michael is also the owner of Gym.Net, a Gymnastics Professional’s Network of Educational, Business, Consulting, and Internet Services specializing in Gymnastics oriented businesses.
REFERENCES: Developing Talent in Young People; Bloom, 1985
Positive Coaching Alliance; c/o Stanford University
Social Psychology Quarterly; Felson & Reed, 1986
Children and Youth in Sport: A bio-psychosocial perspective; Horn & Harris, 1996
Child Development; Stipek & MacIver, 1989
Pediatric Exercise Science; McCullagh, Matzkanin, Shaw & Maldonado, 1993
William A. Sands, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. Sport Physiologist

Gymnastics Injuries

Skin tears are a common problem and usually occur as the gymnast begins to resume a workout schedule after taking some time off. They usually result from friction that builds between either the skin and the apparatus of the skin and the grips. They also can occur with a new set of grips. The tear should be kept clean and well-lubricated and further ripping should be prevented by gradually retoughening the callous located at the joints of the finger. Fresh chalk used before starting work on any apparatus is a good idea. Also, cleaning the apparatus periodically avoids any buildup of caked on chalk.

The pommel horse has been singled out as the main contributor to wrist injuries in male gymnastics. During the exercise, the gymnast uses his wrist as a rigid structure of support for his body weight. The wrist is then subjected to the high intensity of impact and the stress of repetition. The duration as well as the force generated to support this maneuver increase the risk of injury.

Treatment of injuries initially focuses on activity modification along with ice and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. After the pain cycle has been eliminated, stretching and strengthening can be initiated. A gradual return to sports with cryotherapy fater completion of practice is most beneficial. During practice, a gymnast may be taped.

The most common shoulder injury is a supraspinatus strain. Events such as the still rings lead to stress on the shoulder muscle. The use of dowel grip always increases the forces across the shoulder by allowing the gymnast to reach higher velocities. Muscle strains of the rotator cuff are common in younger gymnasts because their upper body has yet to develop.

Gymnasts also can develop bicipital tendnitis, which occurs more frequently in males. The onset of pain is commonly felt as a sensation that "something is moving" when the gymnast is performing on the rings, pommel horse, or parallel bars. He complains of swelling, pain, and discomfort about the bicipital groove.

Acute injuries to the knee are often linked to dismount maneuvers, because the forces are many times greater than other landings. Because scoring procedures in gymnastics award the highest scores to complicated dismounts, attaining a higher score involves increased risk. During dismounts, the gymnast should be educated not to land on a fully extended knee, which may reslut in a ligament tear.

Low back pain is a common problem in gymnastics. Because flexibility is a judge characteristic in the sport, gymnasts attempt to gain greater and greater ranges of motion. Performing at these end ranges of motion may predispose gymnasts to injury. Gymnasts often suffer from flexibility losses of the low back, hip, and knees. Abdominal weakness also is often present. Failure to correct these muscle imbalances can result in low back pain. Scheuermann disease is usually associated with hard physical labor in adolescents. There amy be a failure of the disc, resulting in a decrease in the disc height and abnormalities of the vertebral body or fractures through the growth plate of the vertebral body, secondary to repetitive flexion and extension activities.

Most ankle injuries occur with twisting motions during floor exercise, vaulting, and dismounts from the beams and the uneven parallel bars. Sprain also can be the result of falling from an apparatus or missed moves while practicing. Ankle sprains are the most common injury that is not a direct result of practice on any of the apparatus.

Problems with Acchilles tendonitis are relatively common in gymnastics. Gymnasts perform most of their maneuvers with a pointed toe, which leads to decreased flexibility of the tendon. The repetitive nature of the sport, especially during practice, also increases the risk of injury. Usually, problems with the Achilles tendonmay be atributed to dismounts and tumbling.

Source: http://library.thinkquest.org

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