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Two of the Most Prevalent Injuries Facing Gymnasts

August 02, 2012

The country may be behind the Fab 5 on their quest for Olympic grandeur but overuse injuries are not far behind either. The incredible speed and strength necessary to pull off these moves can lead to serious impact on the bones and joints after years of repeat performance. Here are some of the most common and serious sports injuries a gymnast can face:

One common gymnastics injury is heel pain in growing gymnasts. A growth plate injury from a combination of tightness of the Achilles tendon and unrelenting training/pounding of the growth plate, is called Sever’s disease. It is characterized by pain at the insertion site of the Achilles tendon onto the heel bone (calcaneus). It can be so severe that it acts like a true fracture of the heel bone, causing an inability to participate in gymnastics or even walk without severe pain. It can be treated with, stretching/strengthening  of the Achilles tendon, icing, anti-inflammatories on a regular basis, and cushioning of the heel bone with silicone type of heel cushions at least 1cm thick. If this allows the athlete to compete at their expected level with only mild discomfort than nothing more is required. Typically this disappears as the growth plate does as well. If the pain keeps the athlete from competition despite this treatment than more aggressive treatment is warranted, sometimes even casting. Casting can expedite the healing process and allow any athlete to return quicker with potentially less likelihood of recurrence.

A second more serious example of overuse injuries in gymnastics is called Osteochondritis dissecans or OCD. This can happen in any joint but frequently occurs in the elbow of gymnasts. From overuse and repetitive weight-bearing on a joint that is susceptible to injury, a fracture of sorts develops in the elbow that results in loss of support for the joint surface. This can eventually lead to what you an think of as a pot hole of the joint surface where the broken bone and joint surface attached to it falls out of place into the joint. If this happens surgery is necessary to try to fix the elbow surface. Occasionally this leads to the gymnast retiring from gymnastics. Dr. Jay Albright recommends that any gymnast with elbow pain, seeks advice from a sports trained physician specializing in the growing athlete like we have at Level One Orthopedics to evaluate if their pain is a result of this type of injury. If caught before a pot hole forms and is properly treated, most of the time surgery can be avoided.

Find out how Dr. Jay Albright and the Orlando Health Orthopedic Institute helped a local gymnast overcome an elbow injury.