WAG Tough Situation-could use advice from gymnasts, coaches, and parents

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Dec 8, 2007
1,231
I'm in the middle of a really tough situation and I need advice please!
Gymnastics background: I started gymnastics at a gym with very limited equipment and space and the coaches did not know how to spot or anything so most of the skills I learned I taught myself by playing around at open gym somewhere, so I had bad form on my skills. I competed up to level 8 at this gym and was pretty consistent in meets, but did not score great because of my bad form but I usually hit every single routine at every meet. I had real level 8 skills and I usually placed the highest on my team. For many reasons, I switched to a different gym once I hit level 9. This gym had slightly better equipment, like a full floor and a long enough runway for vault and the coaches could spot a little bit more. We still only practiced less than ten hours a week but occasionally our coaches would go with us to open gym, like maybe once every two months, so once every two months I got to try skills into the pits. Anyway, I competed level 9 and usually did the best on my team. Once I hit the age to start looking at colleges, I looked at a few colleges that had division 3 gymnastics, met with the coaches and explained my situation. I sent videos of my skills and videos from some meets and meet results. The coach recognized that I had some raw talent and that I worked hard for the number of hours I got to be in the gym each week, so she said I could be on her college team. We met several times and she explained to me that I would probably not compete my freshmen year at all, that I would just train and work on getting harder skills and improving my form and that I would be able to compete my second year on the team. I agreed to this and went to that college.
Other background: My parents have always stressed that academics comes before gymnastics and I firmly believe in this too. I received a rather large academic scholarship to this college and my SAT scores are fairly high and I graduated at a very high spot in my high school graduating class. I am studying pre-medicine so that I can go to medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon (thanks gymnastics for the idea :) ). I'm not saying any of this to brag, just to state that I am fairly intelligent and could have a relatively bright future. This will make sense later on.

So I started college, and gymnastics was going great! Since it was still pre-season, we were doing open gyms but I was getting to work out a lot more than I ever got to before and with much better equipment and a really good coach! My form was slowly but surely starting to improve and I was working on some good skills and they were coming along. My coach said I actually would be competing one event this year and training another.
Then, a month later I crash on my head and get a severe concussion. I was out of gymnastics ever since and eventually I took a medical leave from college to try to heal. That was 4+ months ago, and I am still healing from this concussion. I have headaches everyday and I am just starting to get back into doing everyday things like watching tv, and driving. I am currently taking part time college classes, but basically I missed my whole freshmen year of college due to this concussion and and won't graduate with my original class.

Basically my tough situation is do I go back to gymnastics next year? This isn't necessarily all in my control...It depends when I am better enough to start doing gymnastics again at my club gym without getting really dizzy and a worse headache. Assuming this happens soon, and assuming I get back all the skills I had before my concussion, and assuming I make the gymnastics team at school next year, should I go back to it?
The arguments for yes are: I love gymnastics and I know I have the potential to learn a lot more new skills and I really want to see how far I can go, I love competing and I will finally get to go to a good gym with a great coach! I have only gotten one really bad concussion in all this time so who is to say it is likely that I would get another one?
The arguments for no are: That I am intelligent and want to end up being a doctor someday, which is a lot of school in itself. Getting another concussion could be catastrophic, since this concussion was so bad, the next one would be expected to be worse. It obviously affects the brain, so if I get another one who is to say that some of my intelligence may be compromised and I will never be able to become a doctor, which I have dreamed of since I was a little kid. Basically if I fall on my head again, I would be set back another whole year, which would put me two years behind, which when you think about medical school and residency is a long time. Also, if I don't do gymnastics for college I could do another sport.

Please give me some advice! I appreciate it. Sorry for the really long post. Thanks so much!
 

2G1B

Proud Parent
Jan 27, 2013
2,226
Oh my. That is rough.

Personally, if you were my child, I would lean towards wanting you to at most do club level if that is available for the school. I have had a concussion; but it was better in a week. That you have had such a hard time coming back would really worry me.

I would also like to throw out there though, in the grand scheme of things a 2 year delay won't be that big of a deal if it were to happen (which I really hope it doesn't!). I have a friend who graduated with his undergrad, moved out west to ski, then spent a number of years doing ski patrol. He then came back home, went for a masters degree and started applying for medical school. he got in in his late 20s. Sure, he was the oldest in his class; but he made it through with no problems and is now working in his chosen specialty.

I know that right now a year or two seems like a big thing; but IMO, in the long run it isn't that big. If you can't imagine NOT doing gymnastics, and if there is a good chance that you will regret it, then consider going for it. But definitely take it slow and don't rush back into it. It isn't worth your longterm health.

Good luck!
 
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Amusibus

Proud Parent
Aug 16, 2012
648
Pennsylvania
I agree with the advice given above. Yeah, 4 months is a long time to still be suffering. I guess all that I can add is if you do go back to gymnastics, think about what would be your reasons- just love of the sport and general fitness, or would it be necessary for scholorship reasons, or from a sense of obligation to parents/teammates/self, or because you thrive on competition- etc. there could be so many reasons. If is is simply love of the sport, would doing it recreationally be enough for you? Was there a reason for your injury, like pushing yourself to do a skill uou were nervous about for competition reasons, or something like that? Doing it just for fun would remove this pressure, maybe less pressure would reduce the chance of injury? It is a sad day when you finally retire and see those skills and strength fading away, even though all the motor patterns in your brain are still there. This will happen sooner or later, it's just a matter of when. Perhaps I am rambling now... All I am saying is do some soul-searching as to your reasons for returning or not. Good luck to you with whatever you choose!
 
B

BlairBob

I will agree that having to sit out time due to recovering from this injury and graduating later than expected isn't that big of an issue. It's not the end of the world.

You will have to decide, if given the all-clear to train and compete; whether it's worth it to you to compete or not. It doesn't sound like you are on athletic scholarship so that isn't the issue (and even if it is, I think they still have to honor it typically).
 
Feb 4, 2013
7
Personally, if you were my daughter, I'd say to bite the bullet and leave gymnastics. You seem to have an opportunity to study just about anything you want, so don't give that up - youth passes quickly. If your concussion lasted only a few weeks, I wouldn't be so concerned - but 4 months and still going!?! That's a life-threatening injury. Be glad for what you've been blessed with and jump in to the rest of your life with gusto!
 
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D

Deleted member D3987

as a coach> you're done

as a dad...which i am> you're done

as both> learn to coach :)
 
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wandrewsjr

Coach
Proud Parent
Sep 4, 2009
2,492
Your love for the sport is obvious in your post, but so is your practicality, and I think you know the answer to your question. I think you would find many coaches and parents alike on this forum who are desparate to find orthopedic doctors who are sympethic to and knowledgable about the particular needs of gymnasts, and think that becoming an orthopedic surgeon would be a wonderful way to combine your intellect and love for the sport. Good luck to you!:)
 
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Gymnast_Tor

Gymnast
Dec 9, 2012
136
Region 8
I fractured my back last year, and it kept me from doing it a while, so I KNOW how you feel. If that concussion has been going for that long, I think you either need to talk to your coach about taking a "break" for a while so you can feel what its like without gymnastics or you need to quit. If you're like me and would be devastated if you couldn't do it again, then again talk to your coach for some options. What does he/she say about your injury? Many people have had devastating injuries and have comeback. If you take that break, do you feel a lot better and more relieved? Or do you miss it everyday and regret not being in that gym?
 

Faith

Coach
Proud Parent
Gymnast
Fan
Aug 17, 2011
2,179
I think my first question would be what do your Doctor's say about this bang to your head. If you were my child I'd want a medical opinion on why it's going on so long, and why so severe? Why would another concussion be severe?. Unless you have some underlying condition which means you heal differently or are at higher risk of injury, I really can't see why a concussion would lead to such long rehab.

If it was bad luck, one of a kind, hit yourself in the wrong place kind of thing, I'd be OK with you going back if you wanted, with a DR's OK. If there is something underlying then I'd be insisting on further investigations and a full run down of the risks. You wouldn't be going back to gymnastics because not only would you risk injuring again, but it's unlikely you'd ever fulfill your full potential as you'd always have to be cautious, and avoid certain moves.

I don't know if I've misunderstood your post, but for me there are several missing bits of information (mainly medical) that I'd need to know before making any decision. It sounds to me like you need a medical work up to understand why you've taken so long to recover, and the actual risks if it happens again.
 
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sglemon

Proud Parent
Jul 21, 2012
343
As a mom, I would tell you to quit gym antics and concentrate on you academic dreams. I have know some to take a year to recover from a severe concussion. Also, gyms are always looking for coaches!
 

gymmomtotwo

Proud Parent
Jun 21, 2011
478
You absolutely should not risk another concussion with the one you have already suffered. Follow your academic dreams. There is way too much risk here. This isn't a bone or a muscle, this is your brain. I think coaching is a great idea for fun and to make some money to help finance your education. Go be a doctor or whatever you want to be. I know it's hard to let go of something you love, but it's the right thing todo. I hope your headaches go away soon.
 

maryRS

Proud Parent
Jan 18, 2011
189
As a mother I would say no more gymnastics. As a mother just reading this I feel upset for you. But, you are young, you have your whole life ahead of you, you have made great strides, both in the gym and in school. A concussion taking that long to jump back from is concerning and I wouldn't recommend gym. Perhaps you could coach to keep yourself in the gym and around the sport.
Good luck!
 

GTO

Oct 6, 2011
23
Canada
I am a neuroscientist who researches concussion, and I am currently studying the effects of concussion on collegiate-level athletes.
- for reasons that science still does not understand, recovery from concussion often takes longer for women than men. Four months is not very long to recover from a nasty concussion in a young woman, and I personally know of several cases where women are still suffering from headaches, auditory sensitivity and attention deficits more than a year later. I hope you feel better soon, but the only way to recover is rest and time.
- you should not return to any collegiate sport without following the standard protocol. No sport until you are clear of symptoms for at least four days, score in the normal range on the tests they use (impact and maybe the scat) and are then cleared by the doctor associated with your college program. Once you are cleared the sports clinic associated with your program should then initiate a graduated series of supervised aerobic exercise (usually a stationary bike) to a set heart-rate for a set period, and then wait to see if the symptoms reoccur for 24 hrs. And then a more intense exercise period, followed by symptom-free etc until the protocol is complete. The clinic and not the coaching staff should be the ones to make the 'return to play' call.
- once you have had one concussion you are at significantly more risk of picking up a second!!!!! and it will probably have worse symptoms and last longer (and possibly forever). This is known as second impact syndrome and you can search PubMed for relevant papers. Your first concussion has changed the structure of your brain and that damage will be exacerbated by further events.
- the data I am looking at currently suggests that brain function isn't very perturbed by the first concussion, but I start seeing visible (by electrodes attached to the scalp) differences in athletes with 2 or more concussions and this has been observed in another lab also. It looks like a 'two strikes and you are out' story. We will be submitting this for peer-review in the next few months.

If you go back to the gym after a decent concussion you must do that in the complete understanding that you are jeopardizing your scholarship and career. That is all, as Dunno would say.
 
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