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Gymnastics| Pain

This post was written by admin on August 10, 2008
Posted Under: Pain

Sunday, August 10, 2008 

As you view the Olympics gymnasts perform, do you wonder about their pain problems and what muscles may be prone to injuries and how to minimize injuries? 

Pain is a serious problem in advanced level female artistic gymnasts because it decreases the performance. The pain is due to the high numbers of hours spent in training sessions and may be associated to injuries that have relatively high incidence and severity in these athletes.  

This study investigated the role of a preventive-compensative physical activity program, implemented in the warm-up and the cool-down session of standard training, in the prevention and reduction of the pain syndromes by evaluating thirty elite level female athletes, 10-14 years old, who were followed for 12 weeks during the competition preparation period. Fifteen athletes were trained with preventive-compensative motor program implemented in the ordinary training (intervention group) and fifteen (control group) followed the standard training. All athletes completed a self-administered questionnaire regarding the pain intensity with a Visual Analogue Scale pre- and post- intervention.  The experimental protocol consisted of three steps: the treatment of the shortened muscle chains according to Active Posture Reeducation method, the proprioceptive-coordinative training with wobble board and the mobilization and stretching of back using fitball.

Before intervention, the pain in practicing this sport was reported by 83% of all the athletes. The most common primary pain sites were the ankle and low back; the pain anatomical location was correlated to the training. After intervention, low back pain assessment showed a decrease of pain identified as mild (from 56% to 44%) or moderate (from 33% to 22%) and a disappearance of severe pain (from 11% to 0%). Ankle pain decreased and/or disappeared: the mild pain from 33% to 27%, moderate from 27% to 13% and severe from 13% to 0%. The pain analysis did not show different results in the control group. 

The results indicated that the performed preventive-compensative training is of value, in a short time perspective, in preventing and reducing the pain syndromes in these athletes.( Mirca M. Eleonora S. Edy B. Marina P. Marco M. Pain syndromes in competitive elite level female artistic gymnasts. role of specific preventive-compensative activity. Italian Journal of Anatomy & Embryology. 113(1):47-54, 2008 Jan-Mar.) 

Scapular muscle performance in elite, young gymnasts is characterized by increased protraction strength and altered muscular balance around the scapula compared with nonathletic adolescents. (Cools AM. Geerooms E. Van den Berghe DF. Cambier DC. Witvrouw EE. Isokinetic scapular muscle performance in young elite gymnasts. Journal of Athletic Training. 42(4):458-63, 2007 Oct-Dec). 

To evaluate a specific segmental muscle training program of the lumbar spine in order to prevent and reduce low back pain in young female teamgym gymnasts. Teamgym is a team sport comprising three events: trampette, tumbling and floor program. In a recent study, it was found that teamgym gymnasts practice and compete despite suffering from back pain. Specific muscle control exercises of the lumbar spine have shown good results in reducing pain intensity and functional disability levels in patients with low back pain. 

Fifty-one gymnasts, with and without LBP, 11-16 years old, from three top-level gymnastics team participated in the study comprising 12 weeks. Every day the gymnasts answered a questionnaire regarding low back pain. After baseline (4 weeks) the intervention group performed a specific segmental muscle training program. Twenty-four gymnasts (47%) reported low back pain during baseline. Nine gymnasts failed to answer the questionnaire every day and the following results are based on 42 gymnasts (intervention group, n = 30, and control group, n=12). Gymnasts in the intervention group reported significantly less number of days with low back pain at completion compared to baseline (P=0.02). Gymnasts in the control group showed no difference in terms of days with low back pain or intensity of low back pain between baseline and completion. Eight gymnasts (out of 15) with LBP in the intervention group became pain free.

Specific segmental muscle control exercises of the lumbar spine may be of value in preventing and reducing low back pain in young teamgym gymnasts.  (Harringe ML. Nordgren JS. Arvidsson I. Werner S. Low back pain in young female gymnasts and the effect of specific segmental muscle control exercises of the lumbar spine: a prospective controlled intervention study. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy. 15(10):1264-71, 2007 Oct). 

In the floor exercise, a gymnast may receive a general composition score deduction associated with a lack of diverse tumbling sequences. Diversity in tumbling is defined as the ability to tumble both forward and backward, as well as twist and flip. A coach's ability to direct technical and physical training for these skill varieties is enhanced when thorough descriptions of the skills are available.

The aim of this study was to describe and compare muscle activation of the lower extremity in various tumbling sequences characterized by differing body orientations. The stretch-shortening cycle actions during the take-off portion of four different tumbling sequences were analysed and the results compared across muscles and type of take-off (forward vs. backward, twisting vs. non-twisting).

Thirteen female gymnasts performed three trials each of round-off flic-flac to backward layout and to backward layout with longitudinal axis twist, and front flic-flac to forward layout and to forward layout with longitudinal axis twist. Activation onset was assessed as an increase of the EMG of 200% above noise before initial floor contact. The EMG was normalized to peak values for each muscle bilaterally during each take-off.

Results showed that muscle activation characteristics in the pre-activation and impact phase (contact to maximal floor depression) differed between tumbling series. Backward take-offs were characterized by longer contact times, greater relative activity of the gastrocnemius compared with the vastus lateralis during pre-activation, and greater biceps femoris activation during impact compared with forward take-offs. Twisting backward was associated with reduced muscle activity of the t
wisting limb, while twisting forward was associated with increased muscle activation on the twisting limb. These differential effects related to the specific nature of the take-off indicate that training to enhance the stretch-shortening cycle action in gymnasts must be specific to the orientation requirements of each specific skill. (McNeal JR. Sands WA. Shultz BB. Muscle activation characteristics of tumbling take-offs. Sports Biomechanics. 6(3):375-90, 2007 Sep).

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