Tag Archives: gymnastics safety

Coaches Over-Stretching Gymnasts

Gymnastics meet season is almost here and some coaches are scrambling to get everything done that THEY did not do during the summer, including helping their athlete’s condition and stretch properly.

Some coaches are carelessly or recklessly stretching their gymnasts in an effort to make their leaps and jumps bigger to avoid deductions in scores at meets. Stretching an athlete to the point of upsetting and injuring them is not the answer. It is actually abusive, especially if it is painful to the athlete.

It is very possible to manually stretch an athlete without upsetting or injuring them, but most coaches do not know how to do this safely. Sorry, it’s the truth. I have had many athletes come to me for help with injuries as a result of overstretching and/or overtraining then stretching the injured area.

An athlete only needs flexibility slightly beyond what their skills require. Most gymnasts need more speed and strength to perform many skills rather than more flexibility. Many gymnasts are more than flexible enough to split to 180, but their hip flexor, glute, and low back muscles are too slow and/or weak to lift their legs to the 180 degree split required for a good leap. They need more active flexibility, conditioning, specific for leaps as well as drills for technique. These athletes must perform drills and condoning rather than to be forced into an over-split or stretched by a coach with no knowledge of sports science. Being overly flexible at the joint can lead to joint laxity/ligamentous laxity, that’s an unstable joint. An unstable joint can lead to bigger problems such as pain, numbness, tingling, arthritis, joint dislocation, and accidents which can lead to additional injuries.

I am a CSCS, it’s what we do. We base our training on science and experience and that is why we get results without harming athletes. Hire a CSCS or physical therapist to consult with and your athletes will thank you.

Conditioning for Jumps and Leaps, It’s Not just Squats May/June 2016 https://issuu.com/usagymnastics/docs/2016_03mayjune/10

Training with Karen Goeller, www.BestGymnasticsTraining.com.

Sugar Crashes after Halloween Can Lead to Real Crashes

Halloween. I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable day. 

Please keep in mind that many gymnasts feel sick or extremely tired the following days. It can be that they eat much more candy and much less healthy food than usual. They could feel sluggish from the sugar overload, lack of nutrients such as B vitamins, or they have become dehydrated.

Be very careful because that sluggishness and fatigue that comes with the fast drop in sugar, lack of needed nutrients, or reduced fluids in the body can also cause lack of focus. Lack of focus causes accidents, including in the gym. It is the same as when an adult is extremely tired, drunk, or texting while driving. Would you take a chance?

Please remind your athletes not to eat so much candy at once, eat healthy foods, and drink enough water, especially if it is the day before training or a meet.

Eating candy does not work the same as eating pasta before a marathon. Believe it or not, some pasta and the sauce may have protein and other nutrients to slow the digestion and reduce the spike and drop effect.

Sugar in candy processes fast and then there is often a crash. Here’s more information on sugar crashes.  https://news.sanfordhealth.org/healthy-living/sugar-crash-effects/

Enjoy your Halloween, but please be smart about the celebration.

Gymnastics Article, Coaches being Investigated

USA Gymnastics interviews noted coach, author about Maggie Haney
https://www.ocregister.com/2019/10/02/usa-gymnastics-interviews-noted-coach-author-about-maggie-haney/

Not all coaches are like this. There are many that are very demanding yet also very positive. You may have to drive further than you want for your child to train with the best coach for them, but good coaches exist. Visit at least three gymnastics facilities before you make a decision on where your child will train. Talk to other parents, look at the body language of the kids walking into the gym and leaving. None should look stressed out on their way into a gym. Ask about injuries. It should be under ten percent of the team. Watch the coaches body language and expressions as they arrive. They also should not look stressed walking into the gym. Google and youtube coach, gym owner, and gymnastics facility names to see if anything negative comes up or to (hopefully) read nice reviews or news. Check the state and regional meet results. It’s a tough decision that will change your life for better or worse so be careful with the decision.

Let me know how I can help… Check out my consulting and training pages along with my testimonials.

Whole Team with Ankle or Foot Pain? Severs?

Athlete ankle/foot pain? A whole team with Sever’s? Something must change. My suggestion to the coaches with this issue… Don’t make them tumble or land on hard surfaces for a month. I bet half the issues will resolve themselves.

Athletes should dip their feet in a bucket of ice water for ten minutes then warm/hot water for ten minutes with epsom salt in the warm/hot every night for at least a week. With the ice-they may need to remove their foot often then put back in because it is intense.

Make sure they are properly stretching and conditioning their feet and lower legs. Shown here is an Achilles and calf stretch. And check out the Ankle Drills and Conditioning Poster here, https://www.cafepress.com/gymnasticsstuff/680849

And proper landing mechanics are a must. Look at the USAG Safety Manual for proper landing, they finally got it right. landing from a jump is different than landing from a tumbling pass or dismount.

And here’s a great landing mechanics article from the NSCA. http://myweb.facstaff.wwu.edu/chalmers/PDFs/Landing%20mechanics.pdf

Stay Focused in the Gym

Focus in gymnastics, It’s a Safety Issue  

Article, https://karengoeller.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/focus-in-gymnastics-its-a-safety-issue/

It’s that time of year… Gymnasts are returning to school and have much more difficult schedules. They may be getting less sleep and have much more on their minds. It’s now that we must remind them to stay focused in the gym. Accidents happen when focus is lost. Please be sure your child is getting plenty of sleep, fluids, and food. Please remind them to stay focused in the gym. It’s their safety and life that they are controlling each time they perform a skill or routine. Some are doing very difficult skills that involve great height, speed, and power. That adds to the risk. So again, please remind your child to stay focused, no matter what is going on around them and no matter what else is on their mind.It’s just that time of year when gymnasts adjust to new schedules and are very tired or overwhelmed. 

By Karen Goeller, CSCS

www.BestGymnasticsTraining.com

The Box Jump, NOT for Gymnastics

The Box Jump… Not for Gymnastics
By Karen Goeller, CSCS

So as a gymnastics coach of 40 years and a CSCS, I’ve spent a lot of time studying injury prevention and sports science. I really specialize in conditioning gymnasts. It’s what I love to do.

Anyway, there are a few useless fitness exercises that I am seeing gymnastics coaches assign to their gymnasts. These exercises bother me because they are not sport-specific, so the gymnast could be spending their time more wisely in order to help their gymnastics performance. The other thing is, many times, they are not being performed with the correct technique. That can cause injury over time.

One of the exercises that really bothers me when I see a gymnast doing it is the box jump. A box placed at hip or chest height and asking the gymnast to jump up to the box. It bothers me because gymnasts do not have to jump that high. For a split jump or straddle jump, they really only need to jump 8-12 inches off the floor. That’s not difficult for most gymnasts.

The other reason I do not like the box jump for gymnasts is because when they land on the box or mat stack they are landing with improper mechanics, poor technique. Many are landing with their buttocks touching their heels. And many are landing with their knees falling in towards one another. Both can cause a good amount of damage over time to the knees, hips, and ankles. We all know that the proper landing technique is with the knees in line with the middle two toes and hip, not swaying in towards one another. A proper dismount landing is with this alignment and no lower than a squat. Why would you train a deep squat? Landing technique is now in the safety certification, finally!

You can do many more sport-specific drills and leg conditioning exercises such as the step-up-knee-lift, the step-down, and lunge walks. The step-up-knee-lift is a running drill as well as a strength exercise.  The step-down is great for the quadriceps and the push for a back handspring. The lunge walks are very specific for gymnasts too. The forward is specific to the push for a round-off or front handspring. The backward lunge walk is specific to the take-off or jump for a back handspring. Again, it is imperative that the athlete keeps the knee in line with the middle toes and hips.

The other reason I do not like the box jump is because it is not at all sport-specific. Gymnasts do not have to jump up to chest height for any skill. They do not have to jump that high for their dance jumps such as split jumps or straddle jumps. And when they are tumbling, doing something such as a double-back, they are not actually jumping as they would for a box jump. They are actually rebounding. There is a big difference between jumping and rebounding. Coming out of a back-handspring and going into a double back there is no actual jump. The set/lift requires the gymnast to stay tight, not jump. That is very different from a jump and that requires very specific conditioning.  So, if a gymnast needs more height for tumbling, they must train body-tightness, rebounding, and better tumbling technique, NOT the box jump. Plyometrics should also be done once a week for rebounding technique and lower leg speed.

I hope this helped.

Karen Goeller, CSCS
www.KarenGoeller.com
www.GymnasticsDrills.com


Ballet… Not for Gymnastics

landingBallet… I love ballet. It’s truly a beautiful art.

I studied it for years as a child then again as an adult in the city. I even searched for adult ballet classes in NJ, but could not find one. That’s how I ended up in ballroom dance.

Anyway, my reason for mentioning ballet is because I recently heard of some gymnasts doing ballet with the intent to help their gymnastics. Unfortunately, that is ineffective. With ballet, most leg positions, leaps, jumps, landings, and turns are done in a turn-out position. And the crown arm position is not a stable position for balance beam. With gymnastics, especially on balance beam and dismount landings the gymnast’s feet and legs must be in parallel, not turn-out. Parallel landings are more mechanically safe for the body, especially when the gymnast is landing with a force of 10-13 times her body weight. A ballet dancer might only land with twice her bodyweight. If the knee is not in line with the middle toes, severe damage to the knees can occur. Most knee pain is from the knee not being in line with the middle toes and hip upon landings or take-offs. More specifically, if a gymnast lands with her feet turned out on balance beam and her knees move forward due to momentum, she will cause damage, and may actually roll her ankle, fall, and get seriously injured.

Again, I love ballet, but not with the intent to compliment gymnastics. So when you are looking for cross training to help your gymnasts, try to align the movements with the sport you are trying to improve. Ballet, as wonderful as it is, does not do that.

Some knee articles…

https://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/STOP/STOP/Prevent_Injuries/Knee_Injury_Prevention.aspx

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321294.php

https://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/knee-pain

Books for young girls…

www.amazon.com/author/karengoeller
Books for young girls… and adults who enjoy exercise…

books-girls-gfnjad

Gifts… Sports, Fitness, Gymnastics, Coloring, Journals, and More

Just some of my books… They make nice gifts. Sold in major books stores and on the internet. Bookstores can order them for you if not in stock.

www.legsplus.com

www.gymnasticsjournals.com

Your Gymnast’s Knees

Your Gymnast’s Knees

By Karen Goeller, CSCS

painful-knee-illustration-14526284I’ve spent many years coaching gymnastics and as a CSCS. The CSCS is responsible for effectively training the athlete for sports performance. The CSCS also helps bring the injured athlete back to competition fitness once cleared from their physical therapist or doctor.  That step in-between physical therapy and all-out competitive workouts is often missing. It is the job of the CSCS to fill that void.

Sometimes after a gymnast is “medically cleared”  they continue to have knee pain. It is not that the doctor or physical therapist was not effective. Once cleared, the gymnast often is not aware on how the body should function; it is a lack of awareness.

I was asked by a gymnastics club owner to “go over some knee exercises” with some of her gymnasts who had a previous knee injury and some who were recently cleared by their doctors. I would be willing to bet the owner and coaches had no idea I would be teaching their gymnasts how to properly stand, bend, and straighten their knee, but that is what these gymnasts needed. AWARENESS. Below is a summary of what we did so that you can help your gymnast.

As many of you have seen, a high percentage of gymnasts have over-pronation. That is a rolling inward of the feet. Many have one that is more severe than the other. That causes poor alignment of the ankle, knee, and hip. You see the knees fall in laterally towards one another. With that poor alignment, the gymnast often performs skills adding stress to the joint because of the force involved with skills. The poor alignment is often seen in the take-off for the cartwheel, round-off, side aerial, and front handspring. This poor knee alignment is also seen in the landings of dismounts and jumps. Over the course of time, performing skills and landing can cause severe damage to the body if the gymnast is using incorrect technique and/or has poor alignment.

So here is the report from the quick clinic I gave to this group. Throughout each exercise I reminded these gymnasts how each drill related to the sport, landing mechanics and skill take-offs. When an athlete knows the purpose of a drill they get more benefit.

Out-In-Neutral-Foot
I asked the gymnasts to stand straight with their feet together, simple. (Well, sort of.) Many in this group could not do that without over-pronating. It is very common for gymnasts to have over-pronation. They train barefoot with no arch or heel support several hours each week. (That’s why they need high-quality shoes when not in the gym.)

I asked these gymnasts to gently roll their feet out towards their little toe, then back in towards the arch in their foot, and finally back to straight/neutral so they could feel the difference between the three positions. (It is very important to be sure they do not roll too far in any position. You do not want them causing damage to the ankle or foot.) As they did this slow-motion movement, Out-In-Neutral Drill, I instructed them to look and their knees to see the difference in alignment. Some seemed surprised at the difference foot placement made in the knee.

After that and asked these gymnasts to bring their feet hip-width apart and again to slowly roll their feet out, in, then back to neutral. At this point, they all were able to clearly see the difference in ankle and knee alignment with foot position. I asked the gymnasts to perform this simple Out-In-Neutral Drill several times in order to see and feel their neutral foot position and proper leg alignment.

After the gymnasts performed the Out-In-Neutral Drill on two feet, I asked them to lift one foot off the floor and perform the Out-In-Neutral Drill on one foot.  Again, some seemed surprised at the difference the slight movement of the foot had on the knee alignment. I reminded them that the single leg alignment is important on the one-foot take-off and leap landings.

Once the gymnasts did a few repetitions they seemed to understand the relation between foot alignment and knee alignment really well. Before that moment, these gymnasts never realized that the alignment of the foot had so much effect on the rest of the body.

Side-Side-Neutral

After the Out-In-Neutral Foot Drill we did a simple weight shift drill. I call it the Side-Side-Neutral Drill. Believe it or not, when many gymnasts squat they tend to lean on one side more than the other. This is not something many people notice during the landing of the dismount because it happens so fast and the focus is on sticking the landing. The technique of the landing is imperative to maintain low body health.

I asked the gymnasts to stand hip-width apart and keep their feet in the neutral position. I then asked them to perform a ½ squat position as if they were landing a dismount. As I suspected, many were leaning on one side/leg. Others were bending at the knees with hardly any hip bend.  We made adjustments to proper landing mechanics at that point. (Landing a jump on beam is different than landing from a double back on floor or a dismount from equipment. Since the force is so much greater, it is imperative to teach proper weight distribution when landing.)

Once all were in the correct position, I asked them to perform the Side-Side-Neutral Drill, shift their weight to one leg, neutral/center, and to the other leg.  This was to remind the gymnasts that they must land with their weight centered, evenly distributed between both sides.

Remember, the force on the body when landing from a double-back can be 10-13 times the gymnast’s body weight. With some gymnast’s, one side could be taking more force than the other and in other cases the front of the legs could be taking on more force than the back.  With gymnasts who are primarily bending at the knees, the front of the legs-knees and quads take a much higher percentage of force than the back of the body-glutes and hamstrings. The front-load landing can put enormous force on the knees and over time may cause damage.

Since gymnasts dismount daily, it is imperative they line up their knees with their ankles and hips, but they must also evenly distribute their weight from side to side and from front to back.  Sometimes it is just as important to teach awareness as it is to physically strengthen the body.

SONY DSCWe took this a few steps further and added a medicine ball with more complex movements.  We carefully performed the chop exercise in order to simulate a landing but to also involve the core and upper body. We did this with both legs and then single leg. Adding the medicine ball made the movements challenging, but they were able to safely perform. This exercise is a great value because it forces the gymnast to focus on landing mechanics while building a little added upper body strength for bars.

Finally, during this session, we did include some traditional knee rehab exercises. Many gymnasts with knee pain have weak gluteal muscles.

I assigned the physical therapy bridge.  I call it a hip lift. The gymnasts lied on their backs, bent their knees and lifted their buttocks off the floor a number of times. In the hip lift position we also did the marching exercise, but I only allowed the gymnasts to lift one foot 2 inches off the floor in order to keep their hips up.

Next, I assigned the clamshell exercise. I instructed the gymnasts to lie on their side and bend their knees, keeping their heels in line with their spine. Once in position, I instructed them to keep their heels together, but lift the top knee towards the ceiling, opening their legs.  We did both sides.

Another exercise we did that day was the side plank. Added to the side plank hold we did plank hip dips. In the side plank position, I instructed the gymnasts to lower their hip to the floor and lift it back up. We did a number of receptions on each side.

And we did plank leg extensions and small kicks. In the plank leg-extension, I asked the gymnasts to lower their knees to the floor then bring them back up to a straight position.  We did single leg plank leg extension too. With that one the gymnast kept one foot 2 inches off the floor as they worked on the supporting leg, lowering and lifting the knee.  That leg extension is simple, but a great quad strengthener and form drill. And for the small plank low back kicks I asked the gymnasts to lift one foot 2 inches off the floor. I instructed them to keep their foot pointed and lower their toes to the floor and lift the foot 2 inches. I had them alternate these slow, low kicks.

There are so many things you can do to maintain or improve your gymnast’s health. Keep doing much of the conditioning that is well known, but also consult with physical therapists, chiropractors, and CSCS’s for ideas.

Karen Goeller, CSCS

www.BestSportsConditioning.com

www.KarenGoeller.com

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Exercise List to go with Video and Article

  • Out-In-Neutral Foot Drill
  • Side-Neutral-Side Drill
  • Physical Therapy Bridge (Hip Lift)
  • Clamshell
  • Chops
  • Single Leg Chops
  • Plank-Leg Extensions (Bothe legs and single leg)
  • Plank-Low Back Kicks
  • Side Plank with Hip Dips

 

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