Today I was reading msnbc.com and I came across the article Kid's Gymnastics Among the Riskiest Sports. It describes how gymnastics ranks right up there with hockey as having frequent injuries.
I participated in gymnastics when I was growing up...okay, maybe I lived gymnastics when I was growing up. I was on the gymnastics team and competed from the age of about 8 until I was 15 or so. I spent what probably adds up to thousands of hours in the gym and I have a lot to show for it, good and bad.
Let's start with bad. While in gymnastics, I did experience my fair share of injuries (as the article describes). I had several sprained ankles, shin splints, a broken toe, and a sprained neck (eek...scary). I wouldn't consider any of them catastrophic (well, the sprained neck was probably close), and considering the amount of time I actually spent in the gym it doesn't seem like that much. And now that I stop and I think about it, one of the sprained ankles and the broken toe were from doing stuff outside of the gym. But, I did see arms broken and shoulders dislocated. It didn't seem weird back then, but looking back, they were all little girls.
I think that more than these injuries, I am more affected by the injuries that occurred slowly over time (as is my sister). I began having lower back problems right around the time I quit gymnastics, and they still plague me. I did physical therapy in high school (because it got so bad that I couldn't sit down), and basically told that I had put my growing body under too much strain and my muscles were overcompensating my spasming. My knees and my neck also give me problems, and I'm worried about arthritis.
On the other hand, gymnastics made me very strong, physically. I feel like I still carry that with me. It taught me how important it is to be in physically fit (although I did have to undo some of my training to become aerobically fit). It taught me how to handle pain and how to work hard. I gained performance skills and a confidence in my physical abilities. It gave me worth, and something that I could be proud of. And it kept me busy. I never had time to get into any trouble, or watch too much tv, or sit around and mope.
So, would I let my children take gymnastics lessons? Probably. I'm not sure what I would do if they wanted to join the team and become competitive. I think that I'd probably try to introduce them to other sports before I let them get too serious about gymnastics...and maybe bribe them with candy/toys/whatever it takes.
This is the only picture I have in Atlanta of me in gymnastics. I can't do that anymore.