Identifying Rotator Cuff Injuries in Female Gymnasts

Gymnastics is a highly athletic sport and requires must endurance and agility of those who engage in the activity. For adolescent girls who are involved in gymnastics at school, and engage in gymnastic competitions, there is a marked risk for sustaining a rotator cuff injury. As a parent, it is important to become familiar with the injuries your daughter may sustain as a gymnast and how to identify and treat a rotator cuff injury.

Rotator cuff injuries are injuries that occur to the rotator cuff within the shoulder and upper arm region. For female gymnasts who are involved in parallel bars or uneven bars as part of their gymnastic events, the risk for rotator cuff injury is significantly greater than their counterparts. When your daughter sustains an injury to her rotator cuff, the marked sign of early complications will be pain and swelling but, in addition, will experience complications with stability in the arm affected.

While rest and relaxation may seem to be the best remedy for a rotator cuff injury in young female gymnast, this can often cause marked increase in pain and swelling. In fact, girls who suffer from gymnastic-related rotator cuff injuries, the pain seems to be greatest in the evening or early morning after much rest and relaxation of the shoulder has taken place.

To encourage improvement in your daughter’s rotator cuff pain, it is important to first seek advice and evaluation from an orthopedic specialist who is familiar with sports injuries. Typically, the use of aggressive physical therapy, rehabilitation, and anti-inflammatory medications will be recommended. In most girls, after a few weeks of treatment in conjunction with medications and rest from gymnastic athletics, your daughter’s rotator cuff should improve.

Rotator cuff injuries, on occasion, will require rotator cuff repair and this will ultimately slow your daughter’s advancement in gymnastics. It is important, therefore, to conservatively, but aggressively, treat shoulder pain in your daughter as this will provide the best possible outcome. While gymnastics is typically a safe sport, it is important to monitor for injuries to the shoulder as they can become painful and complicated when not identified and treated promptly.

Sources: Gymnastics (Sports Injuries: How to Prevent, Diagnose, & Treat), by Chris Macnab, pp. 101-105.

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