There is no doubt that in the last decade, the rates of elbow injuries in young gymnasts has seemed to skyrocket. More than ever, overuse injuries like OCD (Osteochondritis Dessicans), stress fractures, and growth plate injuries like triceps apophysitis plague gymnasts when allowed to snowball over time. I’ve treated too many gymnasts who lost their season, needed pretty serious surgeries and rehabilitation, or even quit gymnastics, due to issues like these.

Along with counting the number of impact skills taken, respecting work to rest ratios, and tracking growth, early detection of elbow pain is by far the most important thing to prevent long-term issues. To help everyone in the gymnastics community out, I filmed a short 2-minute video with 3 must know signs for when a gymnast needs to see a doctor to rule out something more serious. These are things I wish I knew as a younger coach!


Just to recap, the 3 things that always make me nervous for a more serious elbow injury are

  1. Loss of end range straightening or bending motion
  2. Buckling with weight bearing skills or press up test
  3. Sharp or catching pain on outside elbow, especially if greater than 3 days

For those who are curious, I have an entire medical chapter in the new free gymnastics e-book I wrote that covers everything I’ve thought about for elbow injuries, and much more. You can download it here at no cost,

Changing Gymnastics Culture:

Reflections, Lessons, and Thoughts for the Future

By Dr. Dave Tilley DPT, SCS, CSCS

*Over 3000 Worldwide Downloads*

Hope you have a great week,

Dave Tilley DPT, SCS, CSCS

CEO/Founder of SHIFT Movement Science

4 replies
  1. Phil
    Phil says:

    Hi my name is Phil I took over a new gymnastics program about a month ago. Many of my students have OCD and have had to have surgery. So since taking over this program my issue is my new gymnast lack of training because of pain after surgery. I have lesson the pounding they are taking when working out but still feel that there is an issue. If you can give me any advice or help what’s that will be much appreciated coach Phil.

    • Dave
      Dave says:

      Hi Phil, sorry to hear about all the gymnasts with OCD issues. Definitely something I see a lot of gymnasts struggle with, and is becoming a bigger problem worldwide. I think along with trying to reduce the impacts, count them and slowly dose them, the other side of the coin is making sure their physical preparation is really robust for the upper body, but specifically single arm pressing. I think progressive dumbbell and kettlebell loading through 1/2 kneeling pressing, single arm pressing, overhead carries, turskish get ups, etc are helpful to slowly dose the elbow joints and prepare them for weight bearing. Along with this, making sure shoulder flexibility and wrist flexibility is maintained is really important. Good technique is always the last layer. Hope this helps! – Dave


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