Impact Shoulder Angles Correlate with Impact Wrist Angles in Standing Back Handsprings in Preadolescent and Adolescent Female Gymnasts

Authors:  McLaren K, Byrd E, Herzog M, Polikandriotis J, Willimon SC

In gymnastics, the wrist is exposed to many different stresses including increased extension, especially during back handsprings.  The purpose of this study was to: (1) determine the mean impact wrist angle during a standing back handspring in female preadolescent and adolescent gymnasts and (2) determine which factors predict impact wrist angles.  Fifty female gymnasts from six facilities, ages 8-15 were included in this study. Each gymnast completed a questionnaire about gymnastics participation and history of wrist pain.  Active range of motion of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, and ankle was measured. Each gymnast was asked to perform a standard back handspring, which was videotaped. The wrist and shoulder angles, at maximum impact, were recorded and measured using motion analysis software.  Two-sample t-test was used to assess the relationship between impact wrist angle and wrist pain. Multiple linear regression was used to determine the association between related variables and impact wrist angle.  The results demonstrated that the mean back handspring impact wrist angle was 95º. Fifteen subjects (30%) reported wrist pain.  Years of participation (p=0.02) and impact shoulder angle (p=0.04) were predictive of impact wrist angles.  The authors concluded that shoulder angles and years of participation correlate with impact wrist angles during the performance of a standing back handspring. Future studies are necessary to determine if addressing these factors can affect the impact wrist angles.  Futhermore, this study suggests the development of strategies that increase the angle of shoulder flexion during a back handspring in gymnasts could reduce increased wrist extension during impact. This could be useful for guiding the clinical treatment of gymnasts and educating coaches in prevention of wrist injuries.

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