December 2, 2008

New injuries affecting young gymnasts

Teen gymnasts are developing a variety of arm, wrist and hand injuries that are outside the ordinarily gymnastic-related trauma, a U.S. researcher said.

Dr. Jerry Dwek of the University of California, San Diego, and a partner of San Diego Imaging at Rady Children's Hospital and Health Center said that previous studies have reported on numerous injuries to the growing portion of adolescent gymnasts' bones.

However, this study uncovered some injuries to the bones in the wrists and knuckles that have not been previously described. In addition, the researchers noted that these gymnasts had necrosis, or early death, of the bones of their knuckles.

These young athletes are putting an enormous amount of stress on their joints and possibly ruining them for the future, Dwek said in a statement. The broad constellation of recent injuries is unusual and might point to something new going on in gymnastics training that is affecting young athletes in different ways.

Dwek and co-author Dr. Christine Chung used magnetic resonance imaging to study overuse injuries seen in the skeletally immature wrists and hands of 125 gymnasts age 12 to 16, including 12 gymnasts with chronic wrist or hand pain.

We were surprised to be looking at injuries every step down the hand all the way from the radius to the small bones in the wrist and on to the ends of the finger bones at the knuckles, Dwek said. These types of injuries are likely to develop into early osteoarthritis.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago