For Parents return from stress fracture

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Proud Parent
Jan 17, 2017
My daughter was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her l4 vertebrae on 9/23. She has been restricted from all activity except PT since then. The PT has cleared her this week to do some swimming. We go back to the orthopedic doctor on Wednesday 11/6. He indicated that even in the best case scenario that he wouldn't clear her for activity for another 6 weeks after that appointment.

She was to compete Level 5 in the Fall and Level 6 in the Spring. That didn't happen, so the new plan is for her to compete Excel platinum this Spring. Her coach is asking if I want them to register her for the January meet. To me, this seems like too much too soon. Even if she is cleared in 6 weeks, that puts us at the Christmas holiday. I am also sure that she shouldn't just jump right into full on practices and trying to do all the skills she was working on. I actually had wondered about skipping competition this Spring entirely and focusing on getting BHS on beam to score out of 5 next Fall (and minimize the need to do back walkovers.) FYI- I think the plan was for her to do BWO-BWO as her beam series for Level 6. (That seems like a very bad idea given her current back issues.)

To be honest, I have reservations and fears about her going back at all. I am so worried that she will go back, push too hard and we will be right back where we started. She is very active and athletic, I don't want her to end up not being able to do any sports, or even worse, end up with life-long back pain. She is a very hard worker, but not a naturally talented gymnast. She has to work hard for every skill she gets. (So no dreams of college, etc. She just wants to make it to optionals.)

Any advice? Anyone been through this that can tell me what is reasonable in terms of her coming back and how much to allow her to do and how quickly?

The coaches are good about following instructions, but I find that I have to be VERY explicit about exactly what she is allowed to do and not do or they (her and coaches) will push the limits. (Ex. When she first hurt her back and before we knew it was a stress fracture, I had requested that she not do anything that might hurt her back. No tumbling, etc. I picked her up and she was so excited because they let her work her front layout on the tumble track ( a skill she had never done before. It just didn't seem like the time to be trying a new skills even on tumble track.)
I wouldn't register for the January meet. Does she care about competing - will she be even more bummed if she doesn't get to? Because skipping the season doesn't sound like a terrible plan, but if she does want to try to salvage some kind of season, Platinum is SO flexible, especially if she had her level 5 skills already, she could put competitive routines up with no arching.

My daughter had/has this. Hers was caught early - before she was in constant pain - and if it helps, her pedi sports ortho said that as long as we pay close attention to her body and use pain as the guide, she should have no long-term issues from her spondy. That the lifelong problems typically come from pushing through the pain and continuing to do the skills that hurt.

My child was hurting on specific skills. They're all gone. She never stopped training, only added PT and removed the offending skills. She hasn't even had a twinge of back pain in a year (since diagnosis.)

I have really, really stressed to her that 1) ignoring pain and thinking you can work through it leads to bigger injuries that take much longer to heal. Basically if you push through because you don't want to miss a meet - you could end up missing a season instead. And 2) If I ever find out that your back hurt and you didn't immediately tell us, your gym career is over. Along with a LOT of praise for being mature and bringing the issue to me right away when it happened, and for sticking with the rules and not attempting skills she wasn't allowed anymore.

Her coaches are in our corner 100%. I don't have to lay down rules because they're already keeping an eye out for things that could cause trouble. If they were like yours, there would be very specific lists of allowable skills and how many reps. But to be honest I would worry - a motivated gymnast and coaches who want to push the limits of what's recommended can be dangerous.

The only thing I can say after reading and reading and listening to so many stories is that if she continues to do what she's been doing there's a chance she'll end up with the same result again. I think almost every story I read with re-occurrence, after rest and PT, the child returned to everything they'd been doing before - slowly or quickly, didn't really matter. Unless there's a significant change to HOW the child is doing the skill that fractured their back, then why wouldn't it re-occur? My child may do front handsprings and front walkovers again one day, but not until she has the body awareness and focus to do them right - every time. PT may have strengthened the needed muscles, but if she's not activating them it doesn't matter. She also isn't going to put a back walkover on the beam again (at least for a long time) because why risk it? There are so many other options.
Just my opinion, but I like your plan best. I would not register her for meets this season, especially not Jan or even February. Let her ease back in.
It will take many weeks to get back up to full out practice. I personally would go with no competitions (why would she push back to do xcel, or even level 5). Take her time concentrate on returning in a safe healthy manner and work on fixing form and doing skills (and with good form) with less stress to the back.
Also, when she is cleared to return ask Dr for an exact plan of return —like Week 1 she may do jumps on tramp and turns on reg floor. Only running on vault, no timers even. Bars she may do shaping and conditioning. Beam she may do turns and dance throughout, no skills. — Week 2 she may do leaps and jumps on floor and basic tumble on tramp. Vault still only run. Bars she may basic shaping and casting, no killing yet. Beam she may do jumps and cartwheel, no backward skills. Week 3 —- so on.
Return progression is key. Ask for it by week. Sounds like if you don’t have a step by step that both dd and coaches will push back too fast (just excited to be back at it and push too far). Also. Make sure PT is working on strength for core, if core is solid it will help prevent recurrence

hope that helps some
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