Doing Giants In A Cast!?!

Subject: Injury Giants

My daughter had a stress reaction in her foot and was in a boot for seven weeks.  One week out of the boot she ran for the bus and fractured her ankle.  She is now in a cast from her toes to just below her knees.  She is a 12 year old level 8 gymnast.  Her coach is trying to make her do giants over the pit.  The added weight of the cast is causing my daughter problems and I  also think she is afraid she will hurt her other leg with the cast.  Her coach told her not to come back to the gym till she is ready to do Giants over the pit.  She is going to be in this cast for probably another two to five weeks.  I have concerns of making her do Giants while still in the cast.  I’ve searched the WEB to see what should and shouldn’t be done while in a cast and can’t find any data.  I’ve emailed the coach but have not received a response.  For the most part she is a good coach, but I have never openly disagreed with her.  Your thoughts and any advice would be appreciated.

You should be talking to her doctor first about this instead of the coach. Neither her coach nor I are medically qualified to assess her injury and the possibility of re injury like her doctor. While your doctor may not at first be familiar with pits, pit bars and giants, a short explanation about the foam, height of the bar and the g-force speed of the giants will likely give him enough of an idea to tell you whether (s)he approves.

There are a number of variables that I am not sure of from your description:
Was the injury to the same leg or other leg so is she fearful of re-injuring a formerly injured leg or her good leg?
How much does your daughter weigh in relation to the cast? i.e., What is the % of weight increase adding in the weight of the cast?
How long has she been doing giants and how proficient and in control of them is she? In other words, is she likely to peel off the pit bar out of control or is she in complete control of them?
Did she do giants in the boot?
Did she continue to condition and do upper body gymnastics strength training during her time wearing the boot and maintain her bar strength?
Is the pit a loose foam pit or is a a pit with a mat in it?
Do you have strap bars in the gym?
Does your daughter wear dowel grips?

Without knowing any of those factors, it is difficult to give specific advice, but here are my thoughts and concerns.

On any size gymnast, a full cast like this from toe to knee is not only going to add a significant weight addition (multiplied by the g-force of swinging giants) but will also cause her body to twist because of the extra weight on one side of her body and put additional stress force on one of her hands. In other words, she will have to be able to hold on significantly better than when doing giants without the extra added weight of the cast and also have to deal with unaccustomed twisting force. For a girl who may not have done giants in about two months, this may be a big jump.

It is often preferable for gymnasts to be casted for injuries because the cast provides a degree of immobilization that can allow them to do more work in the gym, more safely. It is not, however, a guarantee that a bad fall would not cause re-injury.

While loose foam pits are relatively safe, if your daughter were to land on her foot, even in foam, it is possible for her leg to twist enough to re-injure it even inside the cast, if the landing in the foam was sufficiently out of control. This is something only your doctor is qualified to medically evaluate in terms of the risk.

One of the slightly higher risks for flying off the pit bar in this situation, even for a gymnast who does them relatively well is the additional chance of ripping her hands while doing giants with the heavier cast on her body which puts additional friction on her hands and increases the chance of ripping. Gymnasts who rip unexpectedly sometimes instinctively let go of the bar and with that additional weight on their one leg are somewhat more likely to peel off the bar out of control.

If your daughter is a strong, powerful gymnast who can easily handle the extra weight of the cast, has been dong them for a long time and competed giants last year, she may be at little risk of injury doing giants into a loose foam pit.

However, the fact that she is tentative about doing them is a big clue. Gymnasts are often aware of their capabilities, both physically and psychologically and they transmit this by their actions. She is clearly not comfortable with this and that must be taken into consideration. Whether the cause of this is real or imagined fear of re-injury, lack of confidence in skills makes them potentially more dangerous. The body tends to do what the mind is thinking of. A more gradual re-introduction to doing giants after what may be an almost two month lay-off(?) and a visible lack of confidence in her ability to do them might seem in order. Threats and ultimatums are rarely successful long-term strategies when dealing with fear.

My workout recommendation (after consulting with her doctor) would be for her to do giants on the strap bars, in straps to remove any risk of falling and re-injuring her ankle. Doing giants in strap bars, where she cannot fall, is the most common training method for girls in your daughter’s situation.

If when she tries to swing, she twists so significantly from the weight of the cast, I would recommend adding ankle weights equal to the weight of the cast on her other leg (and taped on – Velcro straps are known to come loose during giants and fly dangerously across the gym) while doing giants in straps.

Using strap bars allows a number of options – it allows your daughter to work longer on bars without the danger of ripping her hands, although the extra weight of the cast (and ankle weights) will put more stress on her wrists and possibly cause rips there. I teach a variety of giant styles on the strap bars – regular giants (front and back), speed giants with bigger taps that are used for dismounts and release moves) and giants that stop in the handstand for pirouetting. It is unlikely that your Level 8 daughter has completely mastered all of these giant techniques and could easily spend the next month or so working on front and back giant technique, style and control in strap bars without further hindering her progress on bars. Gaining such control is also likely to give her significantly more confidence in doing giants and thus contributing to getting her back doing giants on the pit bar on her own when cleared by the doctor to do so.

After a period of time has gone by for acclimation and healing, your daughter may have regained enough confidence in her giants and healed enough to be safe doing giants on the pit bar. It is almost always a good idea to back up in progression when gymnasts have fears or concerns. Artificial deadlines and pressure do not generally speed progress.

Hope this gives you more information. Sorry I cannot be more specific but without being there to see her, to know her and without knowing more about your daughter’s situation, this is the best I can do. Good luck to you and your daughter and let me know if there is anything else I can do.

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