Common Types of Gymnastics Injuries

Gymnastics is a difficult and demanding sport for both men and women. Gymnastics injuries most frequently include strains and sprains, but serious and traumatic injuries can occur as well. An increase in risky stunts makes traumatic head and neck injuries a real concern for athletes, parents, and coaches.

Types

Sports injuries are typically classified as either:

  • Chronic (overuse) injuries: These include cumulative aches and pains that occur over time and can often be prevented with appropriate training and rest.
  • Acute (traumatic) injuries: These are typically accidents that occur suddenly and can't always be avoided; they require immediate first aid.

Rates

The large majority of reported gymnastics injuries include overuse injuries from long hours of practice and wear and tear on the joints. However severe, catastrophic and traumatic injuries are also a real possibility when performing risky acrobatic stunts during gymnastics.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, gymnastics is the second leading cause of serious or catastrophic sports injuries in female athletes. Cheerleading tops the list, which includes track, field hockey, and lacrosse.

The Most Common Gymnastics Injuries

Thankfully, the large majority of reported gymnastics injuries are not catastrophic. Due to the nature of the sport, the most common injuries include:

Back Injuries

The two most common back injuries in gymnasts include muscle strains of the back and spondylolysis.

Bruises and Contusions

Tumbling, twisting and flipping on the mats or in the air can result in a variety of bruises and contusions to gymnasts.

Muscle Soreness

This is the sort of muscle soreness experienced 12 to 48 hours after a tough workout or competition. Getting enough rest often is all you need to recover.

Overtraining Syndrome

Overtraining syndrome frequently occurs in athletes who train beyond the body's ability to recover.

Sprains and Strains

The best immediate treatment for sprains and strains is the R.I.C.E. method. Two sprains that often occur:

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains top the list of the most common gymnastics ankle injuries. An ankle sprain occurs when there is a stretching and tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle joint.

Wrist Sprains

A sprained wrist typically occurs when a gymnast stretches or tears the ligaments of the wrist. Falling or landing hard on the hands during handsprings is a common cause of wrist sprains.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures in the leg are often the result of overuse or repeated impact on a hard surface, such as tumbling across the gym floor or hitting hard landings.

Though not an injury, another health problem female gymnasts can face is amenorrhea, or the loss of their menstrual cycle. This is a warning sign that the body is under too much stress and has too little energy stores to support healthy functioning.

Head, Neck and Shoulder Injuries

  • Concussion
  • Fractured clavicle (shoulder)
  • Neck strain
  • Shoulder separation
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • SLAP tear
  • Torn rotator cuff

Knee and Leg Injuries 

Foot and Ankle Injuries 

Hand Injuries

  • Wrist sprains
  • Finger fractures
  • Wrist tendinitis

The Most Serious Gymnastics Injuries

The most common types of serious or catastrophic injuries to female gymnastic athletes include:

  • Head injuries and Concussions
  • Neck (cervical) fractures
  • Bone fractures

Possible Causes 

One of the main reasons for the high number of gymnastics injuries may the increase in advanced stunts and higher levels of competition in recent years. Today's gymnastics stunts include increasingly technical acrobatic and gymnastic moves with a much higher degree of risk and difficulty than in years past.

Gymnasts routinely hurl themselves through the air performing back-flips, twists and tumbles and new, cutting-edge stunts. These moves require precision, timing and hours of practice with a skilled coach.

Safety Tips for Gymnastics

Today's gymnastic stunts require a high degree of skill in acrobatics strength and balance. It's essential for athletes to have appropriate instruction and coaching, and to follow basic safety precautions.

  • Train with a highly skilled and qualified coach who specializes in gymnastics or acrobatics safety training.
  • Make sure your coach is certified in advanced first aid and CPR.
  • Only perform stunts in a designated practice area with adequate padding, mats or a spring-loaded floor.
  • Never attempt new or high-risk stunts without supervision and trained spotters.
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Article Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • B.J. Shields, MS, G.A. Smith, MD, DrPH. Cheerleading-Related Injuries to Children 5 to 18 Years of Age: United States, 1990-2002. Pediatrics Vol. 117 No. 1 January 2006, pp. 122-129
  • Prevention and Treatment of Gymnastics Injuries. [http://www.sportsmed.org/secure/reveal/admin/uploads/documents/ST%20Gymnastics%2008.pdf]. American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. 2008. Last accessed June 2010.
  • The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. Catastrophic Sport Injury Research 26th Annual Report, http://www.unc.edu/depts/nccsi/AllSport.pdf