Coaches have experience regarding when and where falls from the equipment are likely to occur. For the gymnast, a fall can have a negative effect on future performance and potentially lead to a mental block on the skill causing them fear. But it is not the skill for which they have fear, it is the falling from that skill.
- Always practice the Fall first!
- When in doubt always tuck up, never open out. Serious neck and back injuries may be avoided.
- Avoid putting hands to the floor, hyper-extension can result in an elbow break or dislocation of the shoulder can ensue due to this reflex action, EXCEPT TO PROTECT NECK.
- If landing is likely to be on the front of the body, try to 1/2 turn to the back, with the arms used to break the fall, extended above the head.
- Practice forward and backward rolls and shoulder rolls for fall from height.
- Practice back rolls with the arms overhead protecting the neck.
- Place protective matting in the proper places.
- Practice judo falls including slapping the mat.
- Practice fall to push-up.
- Teach gymnasts to continue with the execution of skills. Injuries and more serious injuries are more likely to occur when bailing out.
All of the above can in certain situations be rehearsed. Support the gymnast through the exercise of falling or falling with a 1/2 turn to back and continue to rehearse with assistance regularly.
Ensure Adequate Matting
For a young gymnast, even cartwheels on beam for example can be a cause for concern. Ensure that adequate safety matting is provided in the area where the gymnast is likely to fall. Frequently coaches place matting under the beam, the gymnast is hardly likely to land there. To the side of the beam and well behind the point of take off is the more likely landing sight. Again avoid hands being placed behind them and rehearse jumping and falling back from the beam.
Roll Out of Somersaults
Over rotation from saltos, encourage the gymnast to roll backwards from back salto, again avoiding hand placement on the floor to stop rotation but to place above the head, as in the execution of the back roll. Gymnasts should do shoulder rolls when over-rotating front saltos. Shoulder rolls avoid rolling over the head and risking neck injuries.
Soften Short Landings
When landing in an under rotation from back saltos, encourage gymnasts to free forward roll or shoulder roll out, again avoiding rolling over the head and risking neck injury. Landing under rotated from front saltos, will just result in a seat drop or a half roll back. In both cases the hands should be used to soften the landing.
Drill Safe Falls as Part of the Learning Process
Many skills have similar ‘outs’ and these should form an integral part of learning the skill at hand.
There is no doubt that the most important aspect of the sport of gymnastics, especially when dealing with the young athletes in the sport, must be safety.
Prepare for Danger
On any and every event, gymnasts and coaches need to understand where the danger points of each skill are and plan for the possibility of falls. Indeed, it is a good idea to practice the falls so that the experience of falling is not alien, unexpected and totally new.
Practice Falls before You Need To
In the case of tumbling, there are a number of fall positions that should be practiced. Falls need to be practiced for both front and back rotating skills and for under and over rotated skills.
Use Crash Mats for Safe Fall Practice
All the falls and rolls should be practiced on crash mats. It makes no sense to risk injury training to prevent injury.
Shoulder Roll out of Fronts
For over-rotated front salto skills, front shoulder rolls are a method of using up the excess rotation safely. Shoulder rolls are used instead of forward rolls to keep the body from rolling over the head and neck. Shoulder rolls should be practiced on both sides for complete safety preparation.
Practice Front Drops Just Like on Tramp
Another landing possible out of an over-rotated front is a front drop on the mat. You will want to practice so you are able to do a front drop on the mat just like you would on a trampoline. You will need to be able to land flat and not in an arch to avoid possible back injury.
Half Turns out of Front Drops are Safer
Another landing to practice is a jump to a front drop with a half turn to a back drop. It can be advantageous at times to avoid landing on your front so you want to learn how to pull your across in front of your chest to turn so you can land on your back.
Practice Judo Falls
In the case of a landing flat on the back, you want to practice a judo fall where you slap the floor beside your body exactly at the same time your body hits the floor to stop or slow the momentum of the fall.
Protect your Head and Neck with Arms
If you are tilted more toward your head and neck in a fall backwards you want to slap the floor with your arms above your head. Again the timing needs to be at the exact moment before the fall to stop or slow the momentum. You need to strike the floor with same amount or more of power with which you are going to strike the floor with your body.
Roll Out of Backward Skills
You also need to learn to back shoulder roll and back extension roll out of falls backwards.
Prepare In Advance for Falls
There is no guarantee that in a real fall situation you will be able to use one of these, or that your reflexes won’t take over. But there will be situations will having practiced falls can make a difference and it makes sense to spend some time preparing so you are ready.
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