workout session involving seasoned gymnasts rather than beginners working on established skills. While lower back injuries seem to top the list, knee injuries are not far behind. The continual twisting, bending, jumping and landing maneuvers that are intrinsic to every routine may be the very elements responsible for injuries. Some landings may be off balance and can create enough force to irritate the surface under the kneecap to produce a condition known as chondromalacia. Frequently, gymnasts with this type of condition complain of their knee "giving out" and swelling. In addition, instability of the knee, along with sprains and strains of the ligaments, account for many gymnastic knee injuries. Another frequent problem, although not as severe, are hand abrasions. Regardless of club or school setting, or level of training, the hands play a vital role in providing stability and support during routines . Blisters and bruises, although annoying,
generally do not deter a gymnast unless bleeding occurs. In an effort to protect the hands from continual abuse, gymnasts are frequently seen "chalking" their hands prior to a workout. Gymnasts also use dowel grips for hand protection and increased grip strength. Unfortunatly, this can create overuse shoulder injuries especially for male gymnasts when working on the high bar and rings because of the increased velocity and functional grip strength now available to them. Overuse: In any level of gymnastics training, it isn't unusual to see young gymnasts, usually girls, sidelined due to overuse injuries involving the muscles and bones of the lower leg. Generally, the injuries are a consequence of repeated pounding from jumps and "sticking" the dismount from vaulting and floor exercises. It can also be attributed to increased training in which the number of practice sessions is longer and more frequent. For the most part, the body's own shock absorbers can handle the force generated by these movements. However, ballistic and repetitive movements used in gymnastics eventually result in microscopicbone dam-
age often referred to as stress fractures and shin splints. The only clue to a problem may be pain in the lower legs with and without weight bearing, soreness and loss of function . X-Rays may not even fully disclose the problem. Shin splints are often misunderstood and mislabeled. Simply, shin splints are caused by a . lack of strength in the lower leg. They can also be the result of faulty technique, or a combination of a poor floor surface and fatigue.
What to Do According to Gerald S. George, Ph.D., USGF Director of Education and Safety, no injury should be ignored or taken lightly. All injuries either from direct trama or overuse should be thoroughly evaluated by a sports medicine physician. Most likely the physician will order XRays or other diagnostic tests to determine the exact injury. Taking action, says George, will mini-
mize additional problems and get the gymnast back in training. Gymnasts should not be permitted to train after an injury, George warns, until the injured part has had time to rest and heal. In the first 48 to 72 hours following injury, the USGF Safety Manual refers to the RICE method of treatment. RICE refers to Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Going to bed with a heating pad is not recommended as it will increase, rather than decrease, swelling to the injured part. Strengthening exercises of surrounding muscles is frequently indicated for injuries in which weakness is a concern. For example, strengthening the quadriceps and hamstring muscles can help improve strength in the knees. Screened and coached correctly, injuries will be minimized. A positive yet serious attitude can make gymnastics safe and fun for beginners and advanced athletes alike. After all, gymnastics promotes self-confidence, grace and the ability to work with others.