Coaches Back Pain

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I have read about many gymnasts having a lot of problems with back pain. I am curious to know what generally causes this and what a gymnast can do to avoid this type of problem in the future. Any coaches comments are greatly appreciated:)
One thing that often causes back pain in gymnasts (I had this problem myself) is uneven conditioning. It is quite common for gymnasts to build up their chest strength without building up the opposing upper back strength, or to build up ab strength without building up lower back strength. Going with the first example, if you build up a very strong chest (ie doing lots of push-ups) without building up the opposing muscles, overtime the shoulders will be pulled forward, causing a slouched posture, which leads to back problems.

I'm not a doctor though, so please don't take this as any sort of diagnosis; this is just a frequent cause of back pain that I'm familiar with, and one of MANY possible causes.
Thanks for your thoughts... I know so many that have back troubles later on in life.. myself included. & wear and tear takes a toll in really anything that you do.

I am more curious to know what happens when younger girls, I have read between the ages 9 & 15, have back pains... particularly when they do their backwalkovers. Any comments from experience or not are much appreciated:)
A lot of times pain during a back walkover is caused by technique, they allow their lower back to sag and the hips push forward. Watch that the gymnast stands up tight and tall with the front foot lifted off the ground when starting the bwo.

Back injuries are very hard to avoid as a gymnast, core muscle strength is very important. That is why coaches spend so much time working hollow positions with gymnasts. If the core muscles (abdominal area) are weak you will notice very archy lines and positions, which will cause problems with overuse.

As a gymnast I had horrible back pain and 2 serious injuries, and was told to quit gymnastics at 18, but of course was stubborn and competed for another 3 years of college. After college I began coaching and am happy to say that my back has lasted 10 years and 2 pregnancy with very little pain. Staying in shape after gymnastics is important. When I told my doctor I wasn't going to quit I was told I would never make through pregnancy without bed rest because of the lower back pressure I would endure. I coached up until 2 days before my first daughter was born, and have 3 weeks left until our second daughter and am feeling great with no lower back pain. Taking care of your body during gymnastics and after is the important part.
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thanks audra,

can you explain the hollow position to me?... I just want to make sure I understand.

You must have truly loved the sport to continue while in pain - wow! Glad to hear that you are feeling great now... and now I know you have another beautiful little girl coming - congratulations:)
Audra and Geoffrey both made excellent points. If the gymnast's back is only hurting when they do back walkovers, most likely it is due to poor technique like Audra said. If it is hurting more frequently than only back walkovers there could be something wrong...not to scare you. I was a gymnast who, until college, had stronger chest muscles so i have slightly rounded shoulders. I also have a fractured back that is never going to heal.

I competed for four years on a back that was hurting all the time. My junior year of high school i decided to go ahead and get it checked out--turned out that L5 (lower back) was fractured. I went on to compete my senior year and make it on West VA University's gym team--but in Sept of my freshman year my back was hurting so bad i couldn't even sleep at night. It turned out that my back was fractured yet again and this time--it didn't heal, so I was forced to retire.

Back problems are common for gymnasts, if they do their ab strength correctly and they condition all around their body, I feel, that they will be less likely to have a back problem. My back problem was maining from over use. Don't be alarmed if your gymnast comes home complaining about their back, check with a physical therapist for some rehab exercises for your gymnast to do and that will strengthen the correct muscles for supporting the back. Not all back pains are horrible--sometimes they're just sore and the gymnasts do not know how to tell the difference.
WOW Hammy! you endured a great deal to continue! That is amazing to me as I have a low tolerance for pain - lol... my dd has not complained of any aches or pains just yet, but I want to be aware and be as well educated as I can in case she stays in the sport for a long time. I have heard of children - even from rec classes having back pain, wrist pains and elbow pains - it ALL makes me nervous to be honest with you. I appreciate you sharing your history. wow....
When they're on their stomaches it's usually called "superman" but I also like my kids to understand that it is also "whip" shape. The only bad thing about calling it an 'arch' is that kids want to bend their back more than open up their shoulders and hips. Hollow is also known as Scoop---you'll often hear coaches tell their kids to "scoop" in their tap swing--a tap swing should go from scoop in the back to whip under the bar to scoop in the front.
We call the superman position a "tight arch" trying to get our kids to understand that just because it is an arch it does not have to be loose and saggy. When teaching BWO I actually have students push up to a bridge by a wall and then walk their feet up to hold the tight arch before kicking over. It is a position we work hard for in a BHS as well.
Audra---that's a good idea for the back walkover, I never really thought to do that.
Thanks for your thoughts... I know so many that have back troubles later on in life.. myself included. & wear and tear takes a toll in really anything that you do.

I am more curious to know what happens when younger girls, I have read between the ages 9 & 15, have back pains... particularly when they do their backwalkovers. Any comments from experience or not are much appreciated:)

yeah. i used to get very sore back when i used to train and i still do.
mine was also due to uneven conditioning and skills to do with my back (mostly walkovers)

i used to crunch my back up alot in walkovers so i started doing walkovers with my foot on a 4 level high box top and stretch out my shoulders place my hands further away from my foot.
this helped a lot, i could do a lot more walkovers but it still hurt after heaps.
I think that a lot of the back pain is caused by uneven conditioning. Many gyms focus on strengthening the core and forget about the back muscles. Some of the back injuries are unfortuantly just freak accidents like many other injuries though. But you are less likley to hurt your back if it is stronger.

My back injury came from an overuse injury and not knowing when to stop. It took nine months for my coaches to find out about my back injury. I hid it quite well and had told a couple of my teamates who promised not to say a word. Finally enough was enough and they told the coach who told my parents. I went to the doctors that week. I waited until it hurt to stand, sit, lay down, and I couldn't even sleep at night. I have to say that is probably the only thing in life I regret that I have done. I now have to deal with the DDD (Degenerative Disc Disease) in my back and will have pain the rest of my life.

The moral of the story is.. look for signs of back pain and ask your child or athlete if everything is okay. It's a lot easier to hide an injury if no one is asking you about it.
Gymnasts and backs are two words that dont get along!
I was a competitive gymnast growing up I started at age 5 and competed from age 9 till I was 17. In college post gymnastics career. I started to have serious back problems, spasms and at times I couldnt walk! I saw several doctors finally two years ago (one year out of college) I got an xray done. I have a degenerative disorder that effects the L4/L5 area. On the xray it looks like a piece of the bone has been worn away. It pinches the nerve nearby now much easier. The real term is spondylosis.

I coach now and one thing that was not driven into my head enough as a kid was a good hollow position I have my kids hold hollow when waiting for turns during conditioning etc. Holding the correct position is very important though.
Every bone in their spine should be pushing against the mat. To check this try and push your hand under their lower back you can also have kids practice putting pressure on your hand so they feel the difference.

Maintaining a strong core both abs and back will help prevent injuries like these!

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