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Young Gymnasts Tumbling and Vaulting Their Way to the ER
Date:4/4/2008

earchers found that older children -- those between 12 and 17 -- were most likely to be injured, experiencing 7.4 injuries per 1,000 children, compared to children between 6 and 11 who suffered 3.6 injuries per 1,000 gymnasts.

Forty percent of injuries occurred at school, while 6 percent occurred at another public property. Another 40 percent occurred at a place geared to recreation or sports, and slightly less than 15 percent of the injuries happened at home.

The upper extremities were most likely to be injured (42.3 percent), followed by the lower extremities (33.8 percent). The head and neck were injured in 13 percent of the cases. Strain or sprain was the most common diagnosis (44.5 percent), followed by fracture or dislocation (30 percent).

Concussions occurred in less than 2 percent of those children injured, according to the study.

Because the researchers only included emergency room visits, McKenzie said it's possible that the number of gymnastics injuries reported in the study is underestimated.

Dr. Jan Grudziak, an orthopaedic surgeon at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, added that the study also didn't "address chronic problems, such as overuse injuries."

"The level of competition in gymnastics has risen incredibly fast -- 6- and 7-year-old girls are now doing what 14-year-olds used to do," said Grudziak. "It's unbelievable what kids are doing now compared to 20 years ago, but kids' bodies are still the same. They're not getting like Arnold Schwarzenegger suddenly. Their conditioning is better, but we're still talking about a growing organism."

Grudziak also expressed concern about injuries occurring in competitive cheerleading, which employs many gymnastic techniques.

He also advised that "children shouldn't do one sport year-round; employ cross-training." And, he added, make sure your child's coaches have experience training children and they employ proper conditio
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