Physical development contributions to biomechanical injury risk in female gymnasts
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Ongoing chronic back pain and chronic spinal injury prevalence in the gymnastics population is a major concern for the health and wellbeing of female gymnasts. To inform biomechanical screening approaches, the aim of the research is to develop understanding of the contribution of physical development to biomechanical indicators of chronic spinal injury risk in female artistic gymnasts. Chronological ageing, maturation and growth of competitive female artistic gymnasts between the ages of nine and 15 years were evaluated at three time points across a 12 month period. CODA motion analysis and Kistler force plate data informed the quantification of biomechanical risk indicators. Posture, general stability, centre of pressure range and lumbo-pelvic stability were determined through the performance of handstand and forward walkover skills and informed the respective risk indicators. Calculated through an image-based approach, anthropometric growth was established to have the greatest influence on biomechanical risk indicators of the physical development mechanisms. Within the gymnastics cohort, two forms of proportional growth were evidenced. Longitudinal empirical data revealed gymnasts with increased bicristal breadth growth in relation to biacromial breadth to have significantly greater biomechanical risk for posture and lumbo-pelvic stability in the handstand (p<0.05). Gymnasts who had increased growth rates of biacromial breadth in relation to bicristal breadth had significantly greater biomechanical risk for general stability in the handstand and forward walkover skills (p<0.05). Novel empirical quantification for the large influences of physical development mechanisms on biomechanical risk (maximum r2 = 0.82) underpinned the importance of proportional growth consideration in injury screening practice. Evaluation of the transverse torso moment of inertia at a discrete time point provided preliminary support for cross-sectional use of the inertial measure to forecast longitudinal growth trends. Identification of prominent biomechanical risk indicators for individual gymnasts using discrete data may provide direction of injury prevention focus for practitioners.
PhD Thesis School of Sport
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