For Parents When to make her retire (health reasons)?

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Proud Parent
Jan 17, 2017
My daughter is 11 (level 5/6). In August, she began having back pain. In Sept. we received a spondy diagnosis (stress fracture in her L4 vertebrae on the right side). She was out of all physical activity (except PT) for 6 weeks, then braced for 6 weeks, then out 6 more weeks. She was finally given clearance to resume some physical activity. She was to start Week 1 at 25% (doing conditioning and light floor work) and then go up from there. We were never able to even set foot back into the gym because she immediately began having pain with VERY light activity that had been okayed by both her doctor and PT. She is now having pain on the left side and is having frequent pain throughout the day doing simple things (ex. walking, picking up something from the floor, etc.) We went to get a second opinion and are waiting on an MRI to see what is going on. She is back to zero activity other than PT.

Our original plan was to let her rehab and return to the sport that she loves. (thinking that if she has another spine injury that it would be time to quit.) Now, we are questioning whether this is wise. Is it time to force her to retire because it is taking so long to heal and it seems like there is a decent risk of re-injury? (Especially because some of the coaches at her gym can be lax on form.) When do you say "enough is enough?" The benefits don't outweigh the risks...

Before the injury she played other sports and had enough potential in some to pursue them at a high school level. However, she just doesn't love anything like she loves gymnastics. We worry that if we force her to quit, she will be resentful. However, we also worry that if we don't force her to quit, she may be facing a lifetime of pain and wondering why her parents didn't make her stop.

Any advice? I don't want to break her heart, but I don't want her having life-long back pain.


Proud Parent
Oct 9, 2015
We haven't been down this road so I don't have any practical advice to offer, but I do have a lot of sympathy for what you and your daughter are going through. I've always said I'm supportive of continuing in the sport as long as it remains a healthy thing physically, mentally, and emotionally. If there is a real risk of her continuing to have back pain for years to come as a result of continuing, then I'd go ahead and make the call for her. I'm sorry you are dealing with this.


Proud Parent
Aug 5, 2019
I would defer decisions about retirement right now, as either way it sounds like she’s going to be beginning another round of healing/out of the gym. I would focus on the healing first - maybe with fresh eyes/second opinion doctors - take it really slow, and see where things are at when she comes out the other side. If you force retirement before healing and she’s resentful, it will add another layer of struggle to her recovery. It’s already so hard to not get depressed with injuries like this. I say save it for when she is healed and could possibly jump into an alternative sport fairly quickly (in the case that quitting gym becomes necessary.) If you/she decide she doesn’t want to or can’t physically handle a sport going forward, at least she would be more free to emotionally process that decision post-healing.

Also if you think the lax coaching at her gym has had anything to do with her injury, and she doesn’t retire, I would consider a new gym.


Proud Parent
Feb 13, 2015
She doesn't have to retire now. She will however be resting again. Its not all or nothing. Its just not she is back to gym now.
Time will sort it out
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Proud Parent
Mar 18, 2013
We've been down that road. Unfortunately it didn't end well for us, but that doesn't have to be the case. While researching the issue and talking to others here on CB I've seen\heard many stories of gymnasts overcoming the back injuries and going on on having a successful gymnastics journeys.
But here is out story. After the initial diagnosis (stress fracture) it took DD about 4 month to fully recover. The last scan was just perfect according to her doctors, everything healed nicely. We eased slowly back into the full training with PT and all.
6 months later the pain came back. Went back to the doctors - stress reaction at the same spot. More rest, more PT, different PTs, OTs, etc., we've tried it all. She kind of got better, but we didn't want to risk it again with 20 hours/ week practices, so switched to Xcel. Only 5 hours a week, modified skills, no BHS, no BWO, etc. When one day she asked me if she could skip practice because her back was hurting too much I knew this was it. She loved gymnastics too much, never ever wanted to skip practice. So if it was that bad that she didn't want to go, it must have been really bad.
Additional MRIs revealed degenerative facets, which basically means she has a permanent damage in her back, and will suffer from the back pain on and off for the rest of her life. She needs to maintain a strong core (pilates, yoga, etc.) in order to be pain free. So at the end of the day, it wasn't really worth it, we should have made her quit way sooner than we did. But she loved and so did I tbh, so we tried our best to make it work.


Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Jan 24, 2013
Hard to tell until you have more information about the cause of this round of pain. Back injuries can take a long time to come back from and it hasn't been that long since your DD was diagnosed -- she's barely 6 months out from her diagnosis which for a back injury is not much time at all! My DD had 3 fractures and it took over a year for her to return to where she was pre-spondy. My DD's comeback was slow and at times was two steps forward, one step backwards. In addition to re-learning how to train she also had to re-learn how to trust her body again and also learn when to pull back to give her body some rest. It was not easy. My DDs ortho told us that sometimes you can be fully healed from the spondy but the brain still thinks there is injury which results in significant pain. I think there is a specific therapy to address this. My DD didn't have this but she did have periods of more intense pain during her comeback. Her PT said this was normal and helped guide my DD through it all.


Proud Parent
Dec 13, 2010
We have been through this as well. It also started during the 5/6 year. We are very fortunate to have found the right practitioners and my daughter got through the other side. Her spondy was complete on one side partial on the other.

She is kinda a weird case as she never presented with full symptoms and it took them a year and a half to figure out what was going on. During that time she was on a if it hurts don’t do it plan and she was able to successfully train and compete during that time. She did then and still to this day eliminates any slow moving overarching movements such as back walkover front walkover front aerials limbers etc. she has been able to easily work around these things and a now competing her third season of level 10 and is a sophomore.

now I think she is more the exception than the norm. They think hers may even have been the very small percentage of those that have these congenitally. By the time we got a real diagnosis her fractures were non union Meaning they are still there just filled in with cartilage and always will be. But it also meant she never had to be braced or stop gym.

most stories I hear are more like irenaKs unfortunately and ours likely would have gone the same way if we hadn’t found the right people to help us. Not that others haven’t tried. I know irenak tried for a very long time as have many many others. We got very lucky and I will be forever grateful.

once we had the diagnosis her ortho said she should quit and find a new sport and pretty much wiped his hands clean of us. By the way he was the one insisting the whole time it wasn’t a spondy and even declared her mri clean after looking at it even after we found someone new who immediately knew what was going on and sent xrays showing everything to her ortho who never even bothered to image her prior. He couldn’t get us out of there fast enough.

Just quit she will never make it through puberty was his only comment. And this is the gymnastics specialist ortho in our area that absolutely everybody goes to and we did see him again when she has had broken bones.

spondys are complicated creatures. I do not blame this doctor. As I said we continue to see him for other things but doctors don’t always know everything and Are human and can make mistakes.

well after leaving his office devastated my daughter just wasn’t ready to give up so I committed to seeing if there was someone out there to help her And give it one more shot.

honestly I was just really open and I followed the path of open doors through Pts and chiros and therapists and docrtorS, sending emails, reading articles and allowed the journey to lead me where it may. About a month later I happened across a chiropractor that specializes in sports and manual therapy and is pretty much the smartest person I have ever met.

he didn’t make any promises other than to try and we immediately made a pact the three of us that if her back slipped (thesis) she would be done. This is still the rule but her back has been completely stable and a non issue for years now. Even through her giant growth Spurt that has completely screwed everything else up.

he put her on a pt program that they use for professional athletes. It was developed for hockey players and is routinely used by professional golfers etc. what we ran into over and over again with normal Pts And therapists is that they have a certain set of tools and they say ok 10 year old girl with this diagnosis ok these exercises. The problem is that at 10 years old these kids have the strength to weight ratio of a grown adult professional athlete and the program needs to look a bit different. It was similar but the expectations were a bit different pushing some things more and actually going slower in some areas where strength and flexibility were actually working against her.

BTW she quickly surpassed the pro athletes being monitored on this program at the same time and we quickly had to modify and make the exercises even more difficult. These core stability exercises are still part of her regular routine and she is always looking for more challenges.

this program was combined with regular adjustments and addressing the root causes of the problem. In my daughters case this included glutes that fired in the wrong order, hips and pelvis that easily pop out of alignment and closed hip joints hindering turn out and mobility.

all of these things were addressed and she still sees him at least once a month. He checks the status of her back which has really become a non issue, makes sure her hips and pelvis are functioning properly but also addresses all her aches and pains and is often able to resolve issues Before they become problems.

I don’t know if hearing our story will help at all and I am so sorry that your daughter is going through this. I agree that you should focus on healing and let decisions about gymnastics come later. My best advice is to trust your mom gut and your daughters intuition about her own body. Don’t be afraid to question the docs and keep searching for the right person. And when it is time to move on you will know. Good luck!


Proud Parent
Jan 17, 2017
Thanks to everyone that has replied so far. It helps to hear all the stories (the good ones and the sad ones.) It's been hard for her. She played select soccer as well as 14 hours a week of gymnastics and has gone to essentially ZERO activity. She has missed her 5th grade lock-in (at a trampoline park), last field day, school obstacle run, and playing with friends at recess.
Just when she was seeing a glimmer of hope... it was dashed. It seems like her pain is getting worse, which seems impossible since she hasn't been allowed to do ANYTHING. However, PT exercises that didn't bother her at first, are now bothering her. And she has started to complain about pain on her left side (the stress fracture was on her right side.) I will be interested in what the new MRI shows and will update everyone when we learn more.


Gold Membership
Proud Parent
My oldest (at age 14 yo, L10) had a stress fracture at T5 and was out the whole competitive season (Sept to March) , where she did absolutely nothing but PT and was in a hard back brace 23/24 hours a day...she came back to compete States , Regionals and JO Nationals and did well and knock on wood, it never recurred, even through the crazy NCAA coaching in college for 4 years. I think like thefellowsmom, my daughter is more the exception than the rule with this injury.

We had a club teammate that was a level 9, 13 yo, with a similar injury... she rested and did PT for a full year and returned the next year , hoping for the best. In her first week back, her back pain returned and she was done with gymnastics because her parents didn't feel it was worth the long term risk. She was also getting ready for high school so it seemed like a good time to transition from Susie the gymnast that everyone knew , to Susie the regular high school student ready to try something else. It all worked out and she's at an Ivy League school now so there is life after gym...


Proud Parent
Jan 17, 2017
I forgot to give everyone the update...

The MRI from the 2nd doctor showed that the fracture is healing. They do not know why she is still having pain, so they have sent us to a pain management doctor. Apparently this is a 3-step appointment. We will meet with the pain management doctor, a PT, and a psychologist. Unfortunately, they can't get her in until June.

She has been cleared to do other sports "as she can tolerate them." (In other words, to push through minor pain, but stop when needed.) No gymnastics until she is pain free.

In the meantime, she has decided to try acting. She tried out at a local theater for a Spring Break camp/show. She loves the part she got and has been excited to prepare for that. Having something non-physical to do has helped improve her mood, as has her ability to do rec basketball and volleyball. (Her coaches are super understanding and cautious.)
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