How Physical Therapy Saved My Gymnastics Career
By Carly Gordon, an intern at betterPT
The sport of gymnastics can be considered one of the hardest in the world. People are in awe with the athletes’ incredible talent, how their bodies move while in mid-air, and the level of strength it takes to tumble at unimaginable heights, yet make and stick their landings, flip on a four-inch piece of wood, and swing on metal poles. It is mesmerizing how effortless these movements look and we often wonder how their bodies seem so indestructible. However, behind these impeccable flips and twists comes with hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and unfortunately, multiple injuries.
As athletes try and find a balance between training at very high levels and keeping their bodies healthy and strong, sometimes injury becomes inevitable and a scary reality. For me, I was a gymnast for 15 years and trained 30 hours a week. I, like many others, have endured a long list of injuries that were hard on my body and my mind. I have had 2 knee surgeries, 1 back fracture, 1 toe surgery and uncountable ankle sprains. However, with the help of my team, family, and especially, my physical therapists, I was able to fight through these hardships and make it to the highest level in my sport.
Physical therapy was a pivotal part of my success and saved my gymnastics career. Whether it was working on injury prevention or rehabbing a serious injury, for numerous years, my therapist worked with me via exercises and hands-on techniques to help heal my aches and pains. Since everyone’s body is different, with various strengths and weaknesses, my physical therapist was able to pinpoint specific areas of my body that were weaker than others. After two knee surgeries that could’ve potentially ended my gymnastics career, my therapist and I found that I had weak glute muscles, tight hips, and poor squat mechanics, which were all factors that could potentially lead to an injury. From this, I learned what exercises and stretches I needed to do on a daily basis to activate and strengthen the muscles that were lagging behind. As a result, I changed my exercise regime in order to heal my injuries and prevent it from occurring again.
Overall, along with me, the majority of my gymnastics team also has experienced physical therapy in the way that I have. Recovering from injuries can sometimes be long and grueling on one’s physical and mental state, but physical therapists guide patients through this process and help athletes come back to perform at their utmost potential.
I ask myself, what would I have done differently? I would have sought out a physical therapist at a younger age BEFORE I was ever injured and worked on all my aches, pains and deficits to avoid having the serious injuries and surgeries that I have had. Every gymnast should have a physical therapist who understands their specific body and knows which exercises they will need to perform in order to survive the sport. Be preventative and use that physical therapist earlier than later.