Whether it's the satisfaction of a well-done routine or the thrill of spinning around the uneven bars, gymnastics is a challenging, fun sport and a great way to stay in shape.
To help keep things safe during practice and competition, follow these tips.
Safe Gymnastics Gear
What gear is needed depends on the event (uneven bars, floor routine, balance beam, etc). Safety items include:
- Wrist straps, guards, and grips. Male gymnasts use these on the still rings, high bar, and parallel bars and female gymnasts wear them on the uneven bars. They improve a gymnast's hold on the apparatus and prevent blisters on the hands. Most grips consist of a piece of leather attached to a wrist strap. Other options include wrapping the hands in sports tape or gauze. Gymnasts, especially beginners, should use grips, tape, or gauze to protect their hands from blistering and tearing.
- Footwear. Shoes for doing the vault usually have a reinforced toe to help absorb the pressure of landing. Some gymnasts wear gymnastic shoes with rubber soles to protect against slipping while on the balance beam.
- Spotting belts. Spotting belts hook into cables that are attached to the ceiling. They support gymnasts while they are learning a new move or practicing something difficult.
Safe Gymnastics Practice and Competition
To stay safe while practicing and competing, gymnasts should:
- Get a sports physical before starting any new sport.
- Always warm up and stretch before doing gymnastics.
- Only practice on padded floors, never on a hard surface. Mats should be placed under the equipment and properly secured at all times.
- Have a coach or program director who is qualified and is at every practice. A qualified coach will be up to date on the latest safety recommendations.
- Have a coach spotting for all new or difficult stunts.
- Let the coach know if they're uncomfortable with a gymnastic move. If the coach isn't supportive, tell a parent or an administrator.
- Never try a stunt at a game or competition that they haven't practiced many times.
- Follow gym rules such as:
- one person on a trampoline at a time
- when jumping into a foam pit, land on feet, bottom, or back; no diving headfirst or landing on the knees
- one person at a time on the equipment (such as uneven bars, rings, or balance beam)
- no training alone
- wear gymnastic clothes that won't get caught on any of the equipment
- no jewelry
- no gum chewing
- Stop training if they get hurt or feel pain. Gymnasts must get checked by an athletic trainer, coach, doctor, or nurse before going back to practicing.
- Play different sports throughout the year to prevent overuse injuries.
- Know the team plan for emergencies. This includes calling 911 for a head, neck, or back injury and NOT moving the hurt gymnast.
Gymnastics is an excellent way to stay fit. But just as in dancing, cheerleading, and ice skating, there's lots of pressure to stay thin. This puts gymnasts at risk for eating disorders. Eating disorders can lead to serious health problems.
Coaches and parents should promote healthy eating and know the warning signs of eating disorders. Dealing with an eating disorder early makes it easier for a person to recover.