To Be or Not To Be A Gymnast?

With the Olympics in full swing, and U.S. gymnasts racking up gold medal after gold medal you’re probably thinking….”Maybe I should get my kid into gymnastics!” But shortly after that statement you might wonder “what are the benefits of gymnastics?” or better yet “what are the risks?”.

Well it’s those sort of questions that led to me writing about the common benefits that come with gymnastics. Oh, and the risks too!

Benefits
After reviewing a few different sources I found some common themes that benefit those in the world of gymnastics. For starters, participation in weight-bearing activities like gymnastics can help to develop strong, healthy bones. This is important to develop at a young age as we inevitably experience a decrease in bone mass every year the more we age. Building strong, healthy bones when children are young can help reduce the risks of developing osteoporosis later in life.

Another common benefit for gymnasts is something beyond physical gain, and that is the benefit of improving concentration and mental focus. Gymnastics allows children the chance to think for themselves, to stimulate their imaginations, and to determine how to solve problems safely.

Also, gymnasts have been known not react with as large of a “startle response” to sudden changes in balance as non-gymnasts. By applying their conditioning outside the sport, those people become better equipped to avoid hazardous situations by quickly identifying them and naturally correcting body alignment when walking, standing, or jumping. In other words, they are less likely to fall when the stumble of something that was unexpected.

An additional advantage in gymnastics is an increasing level of flexibility. This can be an effective aid in the reduction of injury by preventing people from forcing a limb to an overextended position. By learning movements and combining them in a routine, gymnasts often attain greater flexibility and greater control of the body.

To add to all of that, a 2001 study conducted by researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey also indicated that children who participated in physical activity like gymnastics were likely to have better self-esteem and self-efficacy. They found that the more time children ages 10 to 16 spent being active, the higher they reported having self-efficacy and self-esteem.

The American Heart Association recommends children take part in 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Therefore, participating in gymnastics would help kids meet these exercise recommendations and will likely raise those kids’ feelings of being amazing! Gymnastics can help maintain a healthy body weight, which is also key to preventing many health conditions such as asthma, cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Those are just some of the benefits kids get with the gymnast life, but let’s not forget about the other side of this discussion. Many people who have been around gymnastics can also attest to the negatives that come with the lifestyle as much as they can about the positives. So let us mention those so we have a full picture.

Risks

Right from the beginning it must be mentioned that sustaining an injury is one of the largest cons of participating in gymnastics. A study, conducted by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, examined information on children 6 to 17 years of age who were treated in hospital emergency departments for gymnastics-related injuries between 1990 and 2005. According to its findings, on average nearly 27,000 injuries are reported each year. To go one step further, the likelihood of being injured while doing gymnastics is 4.8% per 1,000 gymnasts, and those between the ages of 12 and 17 had the highest rate of injury at 7.4% per 1,000 gymnasts.

Another reported issue was that children who take gymnastics training at a young age are no longer allowed to simply be children. Training can take up a good deal of their time so they don’t often have the luxury of free play. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child may experience feelings of failure and frustration when the demands of the sport exceed their cognitive and physical development.

Extreme dieting may be another serious hazard to young children due to the pressure to stay small in gymnastics. This can lead to eating disorders and stunted growth which can also have lasting, psychological effects on preteen and teen. In a 1992 NCAA survey, 51% of the gymnastics programs that responded reported eating disorders among its team members, a far greater percentage than in any other sport.

Parents who may be considering gymnastics for their children often worry that there may be a relationship between gymnastics and delayed physical development. The International Gymnastics Federation believes that if there is a relationship between gymnastics and delayed growth, it is likely related to intense and repeated physical effort.
Many studies have shown that intense physical activity causes changes in the release of hormones that control growth. Physical signs of this include small stature, delayed bone growth, delayed onset of menses, and menstrual disorders.

However, while some studies have focused specifically on gymnastics, others have not found any difference between the effects of gymnastics and other sports in general. Although gymnastics is often singled out, any sport can cause growth delays and postpone maturity, depending on the intensity at which the child trains.

So there you have it. As always please consult with a health care professional before making any medically related decisions and good luck on creating the next or first Olympic gymnast in the family.

– Supreme Soul

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard was born a slave in Jefferson County, Alabama, and spent the first 15 years of his life as a slave on a small farm. A year after he was emancipated, he married and became a farmer in a small city outside of Birmingham. Beard was a farmer near Birmingham, Alabama for some five years, but recalled making a difficult trip to Montgomery in 1872 with 50 bushels of apples drawn by oxen. He said, “It took me three weeks to make the trip. I quit farming after that.” As a result of his extensive farming experience, he was able to develop and champion his first invention, a plow. In 1881, he patented one of his plows and sold it, in 1884, for $4,000. Three years later, on December 15, 1887, Beard invented another plow and sold it for $5,200. With this money he went into the real estate business and made about $30,000.

Beard’s most important invention would be patented in 1897, the “Jenny” coupler. In the early days of American railroading, coupling of rail road cars was done manually. Car coupling, an extremely dangerous practice, required a railroad worker to brace himself between cars and drop a metal pin into place at the exact moment the cars came together. Few railroad men kept all their fingers; many lost arms and hands. Even more were caught between cars and crushed to death during the hazardous split-second operation. His idea secured two cars by merely bumping them together.

Beard invented the Automatic Railroad Car Coupler, commonly called the “Jenny” coupler, and the patent for his invention was issued on November 23, 1897. Andrew Beard’s invention, which was improved in 1899, is the forerunner of today’s automatic coupler. Unfortunately, Beard’s life, after 1897, is a virtual mystery. He died in 1921 yet no record has been found of where it happened. Beard was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio for his life-saving invention.

beard invention 2

Supreme Soul

Congressional Breifing on Ending Media Bias

I had the opportunity to attend a congressional briefing held on Capitol Hill by the National Collaborative for Health Equity and the Dellums Commision in a topic that has received a great deal of attention in recent months, and even more so in the past few weeks. The issue being discussed was that of ending media bias against boys and men of color, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

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With the recent deaths of several black males being such a hot button issue, the media often plays a significant and very crucial role on how the victims are introduced and identified to society. However, many people fail to realize that the way these gentleman are portrayed by certain media outlets can cause a bias towards them and their actions, whether it be one of conscious or subconscious. And with that bias comes a lack of empathy for the victims, their families, and others who fall into a similar demographics. Some even take it a step further and use that same seed of bias that is purposefully, or accidentally, planted to grow into becoming jaded, hateful, and bigoted towards that same demographic.

In all, the way the media chooses to deliver a story has an impact, and this was frequently emphasized by the guest speakers and panelists of the forum. Guest speakers and panelists featured a broad base of race, age, perspective, and experience with the topic which began with addresses by congressman Danny Davis and congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. This was followed by a keynote presentation given by Robert Entman, Ph.D., J.B. depicting surveys and statistics on whether or not bias and racism is still present in today’s media and society as a whole. It also featured examples of past media outlets’ reports, photo selections, and headlines that could cause said bias and racism. Afterward, a panel discussion with Allen Herman, M.D., Ph.D., Senator John McCoy (WA), Lori Dorfman, Dr.P.H., and Natalie Hopkinson, Ph.D., took place where the guests each had the opportunity to give their take on the topic and offer potential solutions for both the improvement, and hopefully, eventual elimination of the problem.

Congressman Danny Davis

Congressman Danny Davis

I truly believe the points discussed were enlightening regarding the different forms of implicit and explicit bias that have been and continue to be displayed. One particular speaker even made it a point to say,

“If a boy, teen, or man of color is suspected or accused of doing something wrong he frequently becomes degraded, alienated, and almost convicted of these suspicions or accusations in most forms of media. Yet, when a counterpart has been found in the same position with the same level of suspicion or accusation he becomes labeled as misunderstood or eccentric, and at other times even receives praise from the reporters with phrases such as full of potential, a model person, and extremely intelligent.”

Of the range of suggestions mentioned for an eventual solution, the two that stood out to me were working directly with the media to educate them on how their reporting influences a great deal of social action and a continued emphasis on even sided reporting regardless of race, socioeconomic status, location, or background from readers, politicians, big businesses, etc. I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend the briefing and see that others recognize this is a prevalent issue that has been longstanding, and it will not simply fix itself. It will take an ongoing effort from people of different education levels, races, religions, perspectives and experiences–much like those involved with creating and participating in the forum–to begin to make this change possible.

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(L to R): Robert Entman, Ph.D., Natalie Hopkinson, Ph.D., Senator John McCoy, and Allen Herman, M.D., Ph.D.

Brian D. Smedley, Ph.D., Co-founder and Executive Director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity

Brian D. Smedley, Ph.D., Co-founder and Executive Director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity

– Supreme Soul

Worth 1000

Well it’s Monday again. That means it’s time for the latest installment of Worth 1000. So take a look at this weeks collection and if you’re inspired by any of them feel free to comment with 1, 1000, or just 3 good words that come to your mind when you look at them. Also, you can click the individual photos to see some of the words that come to mind from some of us at 3GW.

Supreme Soul

(click photos to enlarge and see comments)

Worth 1000

Well it’s Monday again. That means it’s time for the latest installment of Worth 1000. So take a look at this weeks collection and if you’re inspired by any of them feel free to comment with 1, 1000, or just 3 good words that come to your mind when you look at them. Also, you can click the individual photos to see some of the words that come to mind from some of us at 3GW.

Supreme Soul

(click photos to enlarge and see comments)

Worth 1000

Well it’s Monday again. That means it’s time for the latest installment of Worth 1000. So take a look at this weeks collection and if you’re inspired by any of them feel free to comment with 1, 1000, or just 3 good words that come to your mind when you look at them. Also, you can click the individual photos to see some of the words that come to mind from some of us at 3GW.

– Supreme Soul

(click photos to enlarge and see comments)