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Question
my daughter has returned to gymnastics at 13 years old after 3 years out. She is now competing level 7 and has come back very successfully, scoring over 37 in many meets. She has also dealt with many little overuse injuries, and has only trained at full capacity for about one month all year. From elbow, to foot to wrist, there has been something constantly affecting her training. Her coach has been very good with her and enabled her to rest and stop certain activities when appropriate. The question is whether at her age and with all that time off, her body will be able to cope with the physical demands this sports requires, or if this is something that will hinder her always. She loves gymnastics, but is also a very good dancer and I would like her see her persevere somewhere that she has a chance of success. If she takes this slowly do you believe she can come back and continue to enjoy this sport?

Answer
Hello Claire,

Dance and gymnastics are both hard on the body. The stress injuries your daughter is suffering, may occur in dance as well. Her body is going through a lot of changes at age 13. She may have progressed too quickly on return to sport. Memory of the techniques are not enough to progress safely in either sport. She must have the muscle strength and flexibility to back the skill. Our bodies are designed for function. Our bodies will get the job done however they are able to get the job done. When muscles are not strong enough to do the job they were designed for, other muscles jump in to help out. When other muscles aren't enough, our joints are called on to do the job of our muscles. For example, when a gluteus maximus is too weak (buns), the back will jump in and over extend to get the job done. When the muscles between the shoulder blades and rotator cuff muscles are not strong enough, the neck and elbow joints jump in to lock down for stability. These motor patterns get the job done, but not efficiently, and with injury as a result. Rest is great, but to rest and return without changing the way the body is engaging, does not make sense. That is sometimes the reason for re injury. Please have her checked out and get her on a strength and retraining program, then make your decisions.

Good luck,
Kathy

Gymnastics

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Kathy Tooman PT

Expertise

Analysis of motion. What muscle length, strength, balance, coordination is needed to accomplish drills or skills. What is needed to avoid preventable injuries and to assist in rehab from a physical therapy perspective.

Experience

3o years as a clinical therapist with strong skills in figuring out why or why not an athlete can't accomplish their skills. Many hours with athletes on and off field, specially gymnastics, swimming, tennis, and soccer

Organizations
American Physical Therapy Association American Physical Therapy Association Sports Medicine Section

Publications
HOLD YOUR SHAPE, Childrens Gymnastic Flip Booklet HOLD YOUR SHAPE, Parent & Coach Manual

Education/Credentials
Physical Therapist, graduate of University of Michigan

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