One of the most crucial things to do following the competitive gymnastics season (after the appropriate rest/recovery takes place) is in-depth screening. This includes a lot of different components, but most importantly injury screening, movement screening, mental/emotional health screening, and gymnastics specific screening.
I’ve talked about this concept before both in blogs as well as lectures so during the month of May I get a lot of emails from coaches and medical providers asking about the screens I use with gymnasts. I’m happy to help out, as doing this can make a huge difference in the long-term performance and health of gymnasts they work with.
There are a lot of great movement screening tools out there (many of which I use). But because gymnastics is such a unique sport, there is a lot that may be missed in these models. Over the years, I have developed my approach to screening gymnasts that incorporates all the elements I think are helpful from these systems.
Last week, I screened a big chunk of our competitive team. This week, we had the group and individual 1 on 1 meetings to break down how things were going, talk about physical/mental/emotional health, and develop summer plans to work on any issues.
To help people in the gymnastics community out, I decided to film an entire movement screen last week when working with the girls on our team. I edited the film and added some subtitles for what I was doing. Much of what is seen here is also how I screen gymnasts who come to Champion for our Summer Gymnastics Performance / Lifting Program.
Here is the video, which was a 30-minute screen condensed down to about 10 minutes.
Obviously, there is a ton more on this topic. Before explaining about some important thoughts, I want to mention to readers that if they are looking for more, there are entire chapters on these topics in this of my new gymnastics e-book. It’s 100% free and available for download. If you want the book sent to your email, just fill out this form below and it’s all yours.
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Now, before people start emailing me or commenting on why I did or did not do certain things or about what some of it means, please keep in mind:
- This was just a snapshot, not everything. This is because every gymnast is different, and based on their unique presentation I mold the movement screen to fit what needs to be looked at more. In the example above, she had some lower back and shoulder pain from the season, so we spent more time there.
- I didn’t show the use any specific system like the FMS in this video, although I regularly use it. I even wrote an article about the FMS in gymnastics for their website which you can see here. I have studied a ton in the FMS and SFMA, as well as the new FCS, and think all of those are fantastic tools. If I feel that someone needs it as a follow-up, that happens.
- This screen is a mixture of medical and non-medical tests. It’s VERY important that people understand their scope of limitations. Coaches should not be diagnosing or dealing with pain. Medical providers might not want to make suggestions about gymnastics skill specific components. I personally feel if you are not a dual medical provider and coach, you pair up with someone from outside your field and do the screens together.
- Yes, it’s time-consuming. It took me about a week weeks worth of practice time to get through all of our screens. I promise you though, it is well worth it.
- There is a ton of gymnastics specific screening that is not in this. This includes global strength assessments (push-ups, body weight core strength, hinge/squat strength) cardiovascular fitness (if appropriate), gymnastics technique basics, and so much more. Keep in mind there are many more layers that people should be investigating.
I use a very basic recording sheet to gather all the data. Currently, it is in a very simple format because as I go through the screens, I find a lot of changes I want to make for things to add, take out, the order of testing for fluidity, and other factors. I will happily upload the current version I am working with for people to use (find it by clicking here) but take it with a huge grain of salt. Once I settle on a final version that seems to be pretty good, I will share that as well.
Following the screen, first and foremost if someone truly has an injury the screen is over and they get referred to a medical provider. I am in a unique position to look further into these things, but there are many times that a gymnast may need to see a medical doctor for more follow up examination or imaging before the summer season starts.
With all the data I gather, there are mainly two things I am trying to look for. One is specific issues or problems that each gymnast has. I write them a follow-up program that addresses these issues and progresses over the summer. We also make changes to strength, flexibility, or workout programs around these issues as needed. On light days of training or at the end of a practice, gymnasts do these programs. We follow the progress them through the summer/fall.
The other thing I am looking for are global trends through the gym. If a lot of our gymnasts say they had lower back pain, wrist pain, struggle with certain aspects of flexibility, or are lacking some sort of physical preparation attribute, I note that and talk with the coaches. This way, we can take accountability for anything we may have done to influence high injury prevalence or some performance issue popping up. We talk about solutions and build habits into the summer training program as needed. We also chat with the gymnasts themselves or parents about what share of the problem they can take accountability for. Together, we aim to work on the issues as a team. More on this to come soon!
Hope this helps, and have a great week!
Dave Tilley DPT, SCS, CSCS
CEO/Founder of SHIFT Movement Science and Gymnastics Education