Gymnast with Shoulder Injury

Subject: Daughter with shoulder injury

Dear Coach,

Hello! I have an 8-yr. old daughter that competed level 5 last year and would move up to level 6 if she had not developed a shoulder injury. My question is do you know of any brace that she could use to help hold the muscle in place? I have found lots of adult products but none for a child. She has taken off a little over a month but went back for an hour and was in deep pain. We have gone to two different doctors the first telling her to quit all together and the second saying cut way back (18 hours week to 9 hours). What do you think about this and what has been your experience with shoulder injuries in young girls? Thanks for your help.

Mom with a daughter who loves gymnastics!

We are unable to help you with your question as such. Even if we knew the diagnosis as to what type of shoulder injury this was, we would be legally restrained from and unable to give you medical advice.

We also cannot at all characterize ourselves as experienced injury experts. We have only rarely had any gymnasts with serious injuries and never had a career-ending injury. We are known for our low rate of injuries and have that reputation even within the hospitals in our area. As such, we actually have very little experience with injuries in our own gym programs. We have almost all of the serious injuries to our gymnasts occur outside of the gym, usually in school.

We do have some perspectives on your situation, however, that we can share.

It appears that the doctor recommendations indicate a very serious injury and situation but are too varied for you to be sure exactly what the correct treatment, recovery prospects and future competition prospects of your daughter are. You may wish to get a third opinion, but don’t ignore or discount the doctor’s recommendations you already have received and their implications for your daughter and her gymnastics.

All doctors are not created equal. One of the trickiest things to do for a parent or a team is to find the right team sports doctor. While some general practitioners may be an exception, in general, gymnasts are better off with a sports doctor, who understands that athletes require a somewhat different handling of their injuries and rehab with an eye toward the best safe and successful continuation of their sports career.

Also, all sports medicine doctors are not created equal. We have found that often the sports doctor for a professional team, like an NFL football team doctor, is often the best choice. Surprisingly, they are often approachable and make time available for young athletes. If you have a professional (or good college) team in your area, you might try to get an appointment with their sports doctor.

We are not trying to say and don’t believe that you cannot find a good sports medicine doctor who does not work for a pro team. We are just pointing out that it is often difficult to find a doctor who can balance their diagnosis, treatment and the career of a gymnast correctly. You should expect to have to search for one, rather than expect the first doctor you meet to be the best. Pro teams have usually already done that.

There also would seem to be a question about whether your daughter’s injury has healed enough for her to be back in the gym doing a regular practice. If after a month off (many injuries take 4 – 6 weeks or more to heal), your daughter is still having deep pain, you can not be certain that whatever the injury it is that she has incurred has healed. It is possible in some cases for the rehab of injuries to be very painful, but if her injury required/requires rehab, especially painful rehab, then she likely should not be back in the gym doing regular workouts as yet. But pain is the body’s method of trying to tell you something that you should be listening to.

It is not easy or inexpensive to find the best doctor, get the correct diagnosis first off and right way, and then to get a rehab program that is designed to and can bring an athlete back to their ideal high gymnastics strength and flexibility levels. Getting a gymnast back to normal body conditions and standards is not enough. Gymnasts must be in exceptional physical condition and require more extensive and more carefully planned rehab.

From our perspective you should keep looking for the real truth. Find a sports medicine doctor, get a third opinion, get a definitive diagnosis, make sure doctor agrees the injury has healed and get what ever doctor-recommended rehab is necessary to bring your daughter back to full health and to the high standards of conditioning needed to be a gymnast.

Don’t try to look for a diagnosis and treatment program that fits your daughter’s desire to compete in the sport. Find a good doctor, get the true diagnosis and then follow that doctor’s advice, whatever it is.

We are sorry that we cannot be of any more help than that. As much as we like gymnastics, we could and would never even consider putting a gymnast’s health or future at risk for the sake of staying in the sport.

Good luck to you and your daughter.

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