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Gymnastics: More Than a Balancing Act

Gymnastics: More Than a Balancing Act

Considering that gymnastics is one of the most widely watched Olympic sports, it may be only a matter of time until you hear the words: “Please, please, I want to learn to do that! My friends are doing it!”

Millions of spectators tune in every four years and are amazed at how trained athletes can fearlessly defy gravity. Admirers agree gymnastics is more than a sport, believing it is an art form that communicates through amazing body movement.

A concerned parent may look at gymnastics as a possible solution to this generation’s tendency for a sedentary lifestyle. Indeed, it is a good way to get the kids up and moving versus spending hours in front of a television or computer. With time, this sport can lead to a skilled child accomplishing bigger and better routines. As with most sports, there are upsides and downsides, so let’s take a brief look at some of the pros and cons of this lively sport.

Most parents can see the negative side of gymnastics at first glance. Much research has gone into high demand sports, such as gymnastics. As participation has increased over the past decade, so have injuries. According to “Pediatrics Magazine,” gymnastics has one of the highest injury rates of all girls’ sports, including soccer, basketball and cheerleading.

A May 2014 news release by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons addressed these injuries of the ACL, the ligament that stabilizes the knee joint. They clarified the reason for this common injury by explaining that boys’ bodies compensate for their growth spurts by becoming much stronger, while girls’ bodies are slower to respond with powerful muscles as their bodies change. Thus, trauma to girls’ joints can happen much more easily. The organization is quick to state, however, that specific types of training can strengthen lower extremities, improve core stability, and teach athletes to avoid unsafe knee positions. They have concluded that injuries can be reduced by as much as 72% if proper training takes place. Without it, injuries can occur, leading to surgery or pain well into the child’s adult life. Their bottom line: pick a coach or trainer very carefully.

Aside from the physical risks of high demand sports, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that placing expectations on children to perform before they are physically ready can lead to frustrations and feelings of failure. Their suggestion is to let your pediatrician help determine if your child is ready for a high demand sport. If not, he can recommend a sport that matches your child’s maturity.

As for the upside of gymnastics, one sentence sums it up: Gymnastics does a body good! Physical benefits are numerous from this sport. We know exercise make a body stronger, more flexible and develops good posture. It can also prevent problems such as asthma, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, the gymnast learns the importance of a well-balanced diet in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Research shows that gymnasts are likely to have high self-esteem and self-efficacy. They learn to be a part of a team, taking instructions and working with adults, which also improves classroom behavior. A structured environment also takes care of excessive leisure time, decreasing the risk that a child will become involved in undesirable activities due to having too much downtime.

If you are leaning toward making gymnastics a part of your child’s life, the most important step will be to find the right trainer. The Hattiesburg/Petal area has an abundance of choices to accommodate your child–just take a peek in the yellow pages or do a quick Google search to uncover your options.


By Antje Hill

About The Author

Antje Hill

Antje Hill spends time between Mississippi and Michigan and loves writing and speaking at various events.

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