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Logo of brjsmedBritish Journal of Sports MedicineCurrent TOCInstructions for authors
Br J Sports Med. Feb 2001; 35(1): 8–19.
PMCID: PMC1724280

Balancing the risk of injury to gymnasts: how effective are the counter measures?


Background—To minimise injury risk and maximise gymnastics performance, coaches, parents, and health professionals working with young gymnasts need to understand and practise safe gymnastics.

Aims—To (a) identify the various injury counter measures specific to gymnastics, (b) critically review the literature describing each injury prevention measure, and (c) assess, using available risk factor and injury data, the weight of evidence to support each of these counter measures. Specific recommendations for further research and implementation strategies to prevent injury and improve safety are also given.

Methods—The relevant literature was identified through the use of Medline (1966 to May 1998) and SPORT Discus (1975 to May 1998) searches, hand searching of journals and reference lists, and discussions with key Australian gymnastics organisations.

Results—The key gymnastics injury counter measures identified in this review include coaching (physical preparation, education, spotting, and performance technique), equipment, and the health support system (medical screening, treatment, and rehabilitation). Categorisation of the type of evidence for the effectiveness of each of these counter measures in preventing injury showed that most of it is based on informal opinion/anecdotal evidence, uncontrolled data based studies, and several prospective epidemiological studies. There is no evidence from formally controlled trials or specific evaluation studies of counter measures for gymnastics.

Conclusions—Although gymnastics is a sport associated with young participants and frequent high volume, high impact training, there is a paucity of information on injury risk factors and the effectiveness of injury practices. Further controlled trials are needed to examine the extent to which injury prevention counter measures can prevent or reduce the occurrence of injury and re-injury. Particular attention should be devoted to improving training facilities, the design and testing of apparatus and personal equipment used by gymnasts, and coaching and the role of spotting in preventing injury.

Key Words: gymnastics; injury prevention; counter measures; effectiveness; coaching; equipment

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Selected References

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