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Of all athletes, gymnasts have one of the highest rates of injuries.

Gymnastics is a physically demanding, full-body sport requiring both strength and flexibility. To excel in gymnastics, gymnasts need to practice the same complicated movements and skills repeatedly, putting stress on many different parts of their bodies. Gymnasts who don’t get proper rest don’t have a chance to heal and grow stronger.

Mikayla talks to a coach and smiles after competing in a gymnastics event.

A gymnast gets her spring back

Mikayla, who is now 13, first got involved in gymnastics at the age of 2. When she first felt pain in her left hip, she waited for it to go away. It didn’t.

How do gymnastics injuries happen?

Many gymnastics injuries are overuse injuries: injuries to a bone, muscle, tendon, or ligament caused by continuous and repetitive stress on the same part(s) of the body. Stress fractures, tendinitis, and growth plate injuries are common overuse injuries. Without rest and a diagnosis from a sports medicine specialist, minor overuse injuries can turn into serious injuries with long periods of recovery and significant time out of gymnastics.

Hard landings, dismounts, and falls can cause acute injuries such as sprains, fractures, and concussions. Although rare, some accidents and falls result in serious head, neck, and spinal cord injuries.

What are the most common injuries?

Upper body injuries

Lower body injuries

Head, neck, and back injuries

Prevention: Proper conditioning and plenty of rest

Parents and coaches can reduce their gymnast’s risk of injury by encouraging safe training practices.

  • Warm up before every practice and competition. Warmups may include a light jog or other aerobic exercise, splits with proper technique, stretching, and gymnastics basics focusing on proper form.
  • Do not attempt complicated gymnastics skills until you are strong, fit, and skilled enough to practice them safely. The harder the skill, the more strength and fitness it requires and the more likely an injury will occur. Studies have found that the higher the level you are in gymnastics the higher your chance of injury.
  • Take time off every week to give your body a chance to rest and recover. While regular practice is important, constant, repetitive training increases the risk of injury.
  • If something hurts, tell your coach or guardian, and see a medical provider. Don’t be a hero and muscle through pain. You’ll end up hurting yourself.
  • Get enough sleep: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends eight to 12 hours of sleep each night depending on your age and activity level. Research has shown that athletes who sleep less than eight hours per night were almost twice as likely to have an injury compared with athletes who slept for eight or more hours. Overly tired athletes are often more accident prone.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat well: Staying hydrated and well-nourished is important to keep gymnasts strong and less prone to injury.
  • Have fun: Gymnastics is meant to be fun. Make sure your gymnast is enjoying their time at practices and competitions.

Safety equipment and tips

The following precautions will reduce your risk of injury:

  • Inspect all equipment at every event to make sure it is sturdy and in good condition. Gymnastics events and drills should be placed far apart so athletes don’t collide with each other or the equipment.
  • When learning a new skill listen to your coach, use additional spotting blocks and mats, and consider a safety harness to reduce injuries.
  • Use a spotter, especially when learning new skills.
  • If your health care provide recommends doing so, wear wrist guards and braces.
  • Make sure a well-stocked first aid kit is available at all competitions and practices.
  • Identify the medical staff at competitions so you’ll know where they are in case of an emergency.

How we care for gymnastics injuries at Boston Children’s Hospital

As the largest and most experienced pediatric and young adult sports medicine practice in the country, the Sports Medicine Division at Boston Children's combines personalized care with innovative treatment for each athlete we treat. We also have the country’s first and only Gymnastics Medicine Clinic, a sport-specific clinic for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of gymnastics injuries.

Our Sports Medicine team consists of sports medicine physicians, orthopedic surgeons, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, podiatrists, athletic trainers, sports psychologists, dietitians, and many others who collaborate in every aspect of our patients’ care and their recovery.

The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention, part of the Sports Medicine Division, is dedicated to the prevention of sports injuries. Through research and clinical training, we offer practical strategies that help young athletes reduce their risk of injury while enhancing their sports performance. Our rehabilitation and strength training programs help injured athletes return to play stronger and healthier.

Whether injury prevention or recovery is your goal, we have the skills and dedication to help your child remain active in the sports they love.