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Is it true that gymnastics can stunt growth/damage the spine?

(32 Posts)
musicalfamily Sat 20-Apr-13 11:16:29

My sons (5 and 6) do gymnastics and one of them was picked to join a slightly more advanced group who train 2 hours a week, (initially) as they think he has "potential". This is a proper gym that trains lots of very successful gymnasts. Both boys love gymnastics.

I was going to agree but then a friend who is a sports therapist told me that gymnastics is a terrible sport for injuries, that it stunts growth, can damage the spine and that many gymnasts have ended up in wheelchairs! She scared the hell out of me. Should I keep my boys doing recreational or is it ok for them to go down the more intense route? Any opinions would be gratefully received...

lljkk Sat 20-Apr-13 15:01:09

New one on me. Have you googled?

MousyMouse Sat 20-Apr-13 15:04:26

stunts growth, I wouldn't think so.
injuries and (permanent) damage to joints and backs, sadly yes. but only if not properly instructed and if doing too much. a couple of hours a week is nothing to worry about.

musicalfamily Sat 20-Apr-13 15:26:13

Yes sorry I know that 2 hours a week won't be a problem, but they indicated that it could lead to much much more by age 7 (I know some children that do 11 hours a week), hence the question as I would like to consider whether we want to go down that route...

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Sat 20-Apr-13 15:34:49

I think concern in the past came from girls developing eating disorders on order to stay skinny and low weight and stunted their developenrbt that way? But that's talking like competition standard gymnastics.

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Sat 20-Apr-13 15:35:25

Sorry for typos-developement

ZolaBuddleia Sat 20-Apr-13 16:07:35

Louis Smith thinks it does:

lljkk Sat 20-Apr-13 17:45:54

Some sports do change physiology, like swimmers usually develop big shoulders.
But the physiology can change again, look what happened to Lance Armstrong (he had been a triathlete and the cancer took all the muscle out of his upper body).

Young cyclists can permanently damage their knees if not careful. Some sports have specific hazards.

The googling I'm doing suggests that gymnasts are small because they are meant to be small, not because of their training (read this).

musicalfamily Sat 20-Apr-13 19:25:03

Thanks for all the links, none of it appears so dramatic as I was led to believe!!

I think the key to all sports is proper coaching and like others on here said, if it isn't going to be at elite level then really it shouldn't cause too much damage/physical alterations.

I don't know what will happen with the boys' gymnastics but it is useful to have the information. With my DD1's ballet I had loads of info from the dance school she attends, but the gym place seems very lean on communications and so it is hard to get some facts!!

LadyLech Sat 20-Apr-13 21:11:32

Hi, my DDs do competitive gymnastics and lots of hours a week. My 9 year old trains 18 hours. When I was told this, I panicked slightly and looked up the research. From what I can see is that yes, it does stunt growth whilst they are doing gym, but when they give up, most gymnasts catch up within a year. That said, gymnastics is a bloody dangerous sport and I would expect a few fractures along the way smile

Disclaimer: I only looked at the effects on girls not boys.

pygmyangel Mon 22-Apr-13 19:58:28

My DS (10) does Acrobatic Gymnastics and trains for 12 hours a week (competition level) which isn't unusual for gymnasts his age male or female. The boys in his class and the girls in the groups that train at the same time vary in size from tiny little things to quite tall and sturdy so I don't think it effects growth dramatically. Although, in acro there is a tendency for coaches to pick individuals that will fit a particular role i.e. base, middle or top so there is potential for any size child to excel.
I think there are many sports and activities that have the potential to cause damage and carry risks once they go beyond recreational level but, at the same time, a child doing those activities, training at that level and possibly competing will be fit, strong and have an enormous sense of achievement. The pros far outway the cons and a good coach knows when a child is physically ready for more training. I think the major problems come when a very young child is pushed too hard too early.

kaumana Tue 23-Apr-13 16:49:48

Ex gymnast here. I'm 5'6 no spinal or other muscle/ ligament problems here. I recently took up fitness pilates and thank the lord that muscle has memory grin

GeorgianMumto5 Tue 30-Apr-13 10:31:06

Dear me, I hope not - Ds is 6, very small for his age and loves his gymnastics. If his growth gets stunted, he'll be invisible!

His is all recreational, though.

ryanboy Thu 02-May-13 11:55:31

I don't think gymnastics stunts growth, only if a child is malnourished.
Gymnasts tend to be small because it is much easier for small people to do higher level moves.Try lifting a weight close to your body and then at arms length and you will soon see why long limps are a disadvantage!

ryanboy Thu 02-May-13 11:56:15

long limps!!! long limbs

ryanboy Thu 02-May-13 12:07:09

Pygmyangel- In acro you do need big and sturdy bases and small and light 'tops'

iseenodust Thu 02-May-13 18:18:19

A friend who is a coach for another sport says the thing is not to allow them to focus on one sport early because it can lead to physiological problems. So do gymnastics but maybe ensure 1 hr swimming (as non-weight bearing) and 1 hr football/cricket a week too.

musicalfamily Thu 02-May-13 20:20:24

that's really good advice. Makes sense doesn't it?

We've decided to go for the 2 hours a week and then see where it takes us. Clearly I don't think 2 hours a week will damage anything but if it were to become more serious I have some good opinions on here. They might want to give it up by then anyway!!!

CheesyPoofs Thu 02-May-13 20:59:39

Ex gymnast here. I'm normal height grin

I had a few gymnastic related injuries like sprains, but nothing serious.

bigTillyMint Thu 02-May-13 21:03:15

Well I guess if they were training to Olympic or even National standard it might, but they are only starting on 2 hours a week so I think you're right to take it as it comessmile

DD (nearly 14) has been doing it for 8 years, does 8 1/2 hours a week plus 2 hours coaching and is shorter than me normal height and very fit!

ryanboy Thu 02-May-13 22:18:05

many gymnasts have knackered joints in later life I have to say (as an ex gymnast)

GeorgianMumto5 Thu 02-May-13 22:45:58

Ds' genetic heritage suggests knackered joints as standard. At least he'll be able to blame his on something he enjoyed.

sashh Sat 04-May-13 08:08:58

If you look at an Olympic team from any country you will notice the long distance runners are thin as sticks, the sprinters are more sturdy and gymnasts are extremely bendy.

Doing a sport to the level of it being effectively a full time job is going to change your physique to a certain extent.

What sport you do will also lead towards different injuries, you are unlikely to break a bone swimming.

Virtually every professional footballer will have arthritic knees eventually.

Gymnastics does have the potential for a lot of injuries but it is getting safer all the time, moves that gained medals in the past are banned. Equipment is improving, the vaulting table replacing the old horse etc.

I wouldn't worry for 2 hours a week.

Judyandherdreamofhorses Sat 04-May-13 08:12:26

I'm an ex-gymnast with knackered joints. They're knackered because they're hypermobile. I was good at gymnastics because I was hyper mobile. It didn't cause it.

I'm letting DD try gym (and ballet soon) for a while, but will keep an eye on it. I would have benefited from orthotic insoles as a child, but nobody realised this.

Moominsarehippos Sat 04-May-13 08:20:43

I suppose the top gymnasts are top because they are naturally very bendy and slight. Otherwise every gym would churn out tiny tots that could bent like a pretzel and be 5.2 in height.

I think genetics, good training and luck have a lot to do with injuries and long term problems (in any sport/physical 'job').

I've heard that swimming makes you taller but a friends dad who is an orthopedic surgeon said that was rubbish!

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