Usually, my wife takes the kids to their gymnastics class. It’s once a week for 90 minutes, right in the middle of the work day. Two weeks ago, however, she was really busy, so I volunteered. To be honest, I was looking forward to it. I hadn’t seen them do gymnastics in a while, and I was curious how far they’d come.
The gym is a cavernous warehouse building, with a ceiling that’s at least forty feet high. Spectators sit in a little dark room behind a window at one end of the room. There are rows of chairs on steps, so it’s kind of like being on bleachers.
I settled in the front row to watch. Behind me, I heard two ladies talking.
“Was that your daughter with her ankle taped up?” the first lady said.
“Yeah,” the second lady said. “Different injury than last year, thank goodness. She should be able to go again in no time.”
“We’re new to this. Are there lots of injuries?”
“No. No more than in softball or any of the other sports.”
“Good,” the first lady sounded relieved. “Cause it -”
“I mean,” the second lady interrupted. “yeah, everyone on the team is dinged in some way, but they’re not big injuries, you know? It’s ankles and shoulders and elbows and knees – that kind of thing.”
I peeked over my shoulder to see if she was serious. How could any of those injuries not be serious? I’m no sports doctor, but I know that joint injuries can persist for years. Heck, I tweaked my knee back in my teens and I still have to wear a brace sometimes when I go hiking.
“But they push through them,” the first lady continued. She seemed oblivious to the rather sick expression on the face of the woman next to her. “That’s the thing about gymnastics. It teaches them focus. Did you know gymnasts tend to be smarter? It’s true. They get better grades. There have been studies.”
“That’s nice,” the first lady said.
I turned back to watching my kids. As far as I could tell, none of the kids in their group were injured. Looking at the older kids, the 10-12 year-olds, however, I started to feel a little ill. Most of them had some sort of tape or brace. Taped ankles seemed to be the most common, but there were also wrapped elbows and even one instance of the dreaded knee brace.
I watched my kids tumbling and bouncing. They were having a great time, and I know it’s something my oldest is proud of. He’s really good at it, with a great sense of balance and steadily improving body control.
That night, he woke up crying. His leg hurt, right wear it connects to his body. We examined it, and decided it was just a pulled muscle. He stretched and seemed to be okay.
One week later (which was last week), he woke up unable to stand on the leg. It was so bad that I had to carry him down from his bunk bed. That was during the Week with No Momma, so I took him and his little brother to the doctor.
Turns out he pulled muscle in gymnastics, and that some pulls are bad enough to take a long time to heal. During that time, you have to keep stretching whenever you exercise. Otherwise they can “lock up,” as the doctor put it.
She assured me this would go away after a few weeks, but I can’t help but remember all the injuries to the other kids.
Now I’m in a quandry. They love gymnastics, but I’m starting to wonder if we could find a safer sport for them – like football, maybe, or rugby.