Many of the recommendations in a recent study examining injuries in gymnastics, especially those dealing with coaching education, have been a part of the professional membership requirements for USA Gymnastics for more than 10 years. USA Gymnastics has offered safety certification for its professional members since 1985, began requiring it in 1994 and made it mandatory in 1998. USA Gymnastics offers educational opportunities on both the national and regional levels to coaches and instructors, which consistently emphasize aspects of safety and better prepares them to teach gymnastics.
Gymnastics is a great activity for children and young adults, and USA Gymnastics recommends parents enroll their children in programs that are properly supervised. When looking for a place for their kids to participate in gymnastics, parents should follow the same steps they would when entering their child in any activity: visit the gym; interview the owner and coaches; talk to parents who have their kids in the activity; ask if they have any USA Gymnastics professional members on staff; and watch several sessions to gauge the environment and staff interaction.
In addition to the requirement of safety certification, USA Gymnastics offers a variety of educational programs for coaches that teach proper technique, skills progressions, drills, and proper spotting, which help provide an increasingly safe environment for participants. In addition to the requirement of safety certification, USA Gymnastics also conducts national and regional Congresses which serve as symposiums on the sport; publishes a monthly magazine (Technique) to provide continuing insight and updates to its professional members; and, offers a series of on-line and distance learning courses through USA Gymnastics University, which is designed to increase the continuing education opportunities available for coaches. These courses cover a variety of areas, including first aid, sports injury care and special gymnastics safety factors.
USA Gymnastics believes some of the points made in the study are misleading. The study is based on injury information that was entered in an emergency room database from different hospitals, which means there is little consistency in what may have been classified as a gymnastics-related injury. Also, the study did not differentiate whether or not the injuries occurred in a proper setting with appropriate supervision. In addition, the study represented participation numbers at 600,000, which represents those who compete in events, rather than the 4-5 million recreational and competitive participants cited in some industry surveys. Although it was not featured prominently in media reports, the study documented a 25 percent decrease in gymnastics-related injuries during the period of the study and that 97 percent of the injuries were treated and released.
Participation in gymnastics has many benefits – increased fitness, flexibility, strength and muscle building, self-esteem, self-confidence, concentration, to name a few – and is an enjoyable activity for youth of all ages. USA Gymnastics has been a leader among national sports governing bodies for its proactive efforts in the areas of safety certification and other educational initiatives. The organization, its members, and the industry consider safety a high priority and have taken numerous steps to provide a fun and safe environment for gymnastics activities
Background for above statement
Pediatrics, the journal for the American Academy of Pediatrics, published a study, "Gymnastics-related injuries to children treated in emergency departments in the United States, 1990-2005" in its April 2008 issue. The study, done by a team at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, uses data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) and reaches conclusions based on their interpretation of the findings of their data search. To see the study, please click here.