Olympic Gymnast Injuries: Does Working Through Pain Send Wrong Message to Kids?


Rhonda Dixon, owner of Excel Gymnastics in Saugerties, N.Y., recalled one parent who wanted her daughter to move up the competitive ranks even though her coaches didn't feel she was ready. "She had a terrible season. She was scared of the skills and cried a lot during practices. Meanwhile her mom was on the sidelines asking her why she couldn't do what the other girls were doing."

Thankfully such parents are few and far between. When they do get out of hand, Dixon said it's the coach's job to gently remind them that safety comes first, especially when it's a younger kid who is eager to please and can't speak up for herself. Occasionally she'll take a parent aside and ask them to back off.

As for the message elite athletes send to up and comers that training through injuries is not only OK -- it's expected -- Olympic Champion Nastia Lukin says they may not see the whole picture. According to Lukin, top gymnasts will take a break if the injury is severe enough and they risk long term damage.

"I've dealt with aches and pains and you certainly put them out of your mind during competition if they're not severe but it's so important to communicate to your coaches, your parents and your medical staff," she said. "If it's spotted early it can be taken care of. If it's really bad, you don't want to make it worse."

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