Stretching the Spines of Gymnasts: A Review
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Gymnastics is noted for involving highly specialized strength, power, agility and flexibility. Flexibility is perhaps the single greatest discriminator of gymnastics from other sports. The extreme ranges of motion achieved by gymnasts require long periods of training, often occupying more than a decade. Gymnasts also start training at an early age (particularly female gymnasts), and the effect of gymnastics training on these young athletes is poorly understood. One of the concerns of many gymnastics professionals is the training of the spine in hyperextension—the ubiquitous ‘arch’ seen in many gymnastics positions and movements. Training in spine hyperextension usually begins in early childhood through performance of a skill known as a back-bend. Does practising a back-bend and other hyperextension exercises harm young gymnasts? Current information on spine stretching among gymnasts indicates that, within reason, spine stretching does not appear to be an unusual threat to gymnasts’ health. However, the paucity of information demands that further study be undertaken.
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