T Gable


T. Gable

Willamette University, Salem, OR

Gymnastics is a popular sport that has potential benefits to the athlete including strength and flexibility improvements as well as personal growth. A critical skill in gymnastics that should be developed from a young age is balance; both dynamic and static balance are fundamental to higher-level gymnastics. PURPOSE: To assess the efficacy of a balance training protocol in improving the dynamic balance of young female gymnasts. METHODS: 19 female gymnasts at the Athletic Edge Gymnastics ages 6-11 participated in this longitudinal experimental study. A combination of standing and hopping skills, including leaps onto surfaces of varying stability, X-shaped hopping patterns, and one-footed balance training were used to train the ten gymnasts in the experimental group. Meanwhile, nine control group gymnasts continued with their normal gymnastics practices for eight weeks, gymnasts were tested before, after week four, and after week eight to assess improvements in the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS), Star Excursion Balance Test (SEBT), Center of Pressure Path length (COP Path length), and Joint Position Sense (JPS) scores. RESULTS: An improvement in SEBT reaching distances from 23.33 ± 2.99 cm in week four to 23.8± 3.19 cm in week eight for the gymnasts’ dominant foot reaching anteriorly (p=0.03) was observed. Insignificant decreases in scores, indicating performance improvements, for the experimental group from week 0 to week 8 were observed for COP path length (from .19 ± .07 to .17 ± .05 cm), BESS test errors (11.25 ± 2.75 to 10.06 ± 2.71), and JPS constant angular error with a 45˚ target (from 4.93 ± 4.22 to 3.95 ± 1.16) were also observed. CONCLUSION: While anecdotal evidence suggested that balance training could be effective for gymnasts of this age and caliber, these tests did not identify an effect. Future studies should seek to eliminate the possible confound of high intensity gymnastics training endured by all 19 subjects.

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