All coaches, gym owners, parents and gymnasts need to be concerned with gymnastics safety. In every gymnastics program, safety considerations should come first.
USAG Safety Certification
Currently, the safety knowledge level of the average gymnastics coach derives from the USA Gymnastics Safety certification program. This program was originally a one-day course with a multiple-choice test. The course and test are now also available online. The course is based on the USA Gymnastics Safety manual.
The Original Safety Association
Organizational involvement in the gymnastics safety issue began with USGSA (United States Gymnastics Safety Association) and the publishing of their safety manual in 1978. At the time there was a “crisis” in gymnastics liability insurance and the USGSA tried to set itself up to be the intermediary between insurance companies and gyms. Gyms and coaches theoretically could only be insured if their staff and coaches passed the USGSA safety testing.
Must Be Certified
The USGSA disappeared after a few short years and the responsibility for safety certification passed to USA Gymnastics. They enforced rules for coaches to become certified by the USA Gymnastics Safety certification program by not allowing anyone not certified to coach at meets.
Safety vs. Liability
With both of these certification programs, there was and remains some question as to what policies are truly related to safety and which are liability issues. No one in America can be unaware of the concept that there are too many lawyers and that America is “suit-happy.” And yet there should certainly be a distinction made between what is safety related and what is a result of liability concerns.
A perfect example is the somewhat schizophrenic attitude in gymnastics safety programs toward trampolines. The YMCA had pretty much banned them from all of their in-house gymnastics programs because of liability problems. Some safety programs advocated “no somersault” gymnastics trampoline programs. Most insurance companies who cover gymnastics programs ask how many trampolines gyms have on their applications. Some companies have charged higher premiums for programs, which have trampolines.
Trampolines Not the Issue
Trampoline safety, within and without of gymnastics programs, is related to suitable training progressions. Gyms that use correct training progressions are safe programs whether or not they have a trampoline. At the higher levels of the sport, programs that do not have and do not use trampolines are probably less safe than programs that have and use them.
Correctly Used Trampolines are a Safety Device
This is so because of skills like double back somersaults are more safely learned (at some point in the progression) on trampoline. More importantly, it is so much quicker and easier to perform repetitions of double backs on trampoline. Repetition is necessary to develop kinesthetic air awareness so gymnasts can safely land the skills on floor. Trampoline training also allows gymnasts to perform more tumbling salto skills with less wear and tear on the body, which is safer for gymnasts.
What is Real Gymnastics Safety?
Our interest in this series of articles is not the liability concerns or USA Gymnastics or the insurance companies. Our concern is the real safety of gymnasts in our programs and how we can best make every gymnasts at every level in the gym as safe as they can be.
I’ve Done Everything Possible to Provide Safety for My Gymnasts
Our primary goals is to help coaches to never have to look down at an injured gymnast and have to say, “Gee, I wish I had” To insure that we have taken a much wider view of gymnastics safety both in the scope of topics and in the areas which need to be studied.
Re-examine Every Injury, Safety Question and Problem
While we have had considerable success in both running high level gymnastics programs and having enviable safety records, we still examine every situation and incident in the gym in terms of safety and accident prevention.
Stand Up for Safety
Let’s all make the sport as safe as possible.
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