FIG rules cause injury

Yesterday Yamilet Peña of the Dominican Republic competed a Prudnova (Roche for men) … the most difficult vault ever performed by a woman. (VIDEO from podium training)

She has the highest qualifying score, so far, half way through the preliminary competition.

FIG sends the message that extremely difficult and dangerous skills are to be rewarded. Coaches in gyms around the world will continue pushing in this direction.

Yet almost everyone in Tokyo right now will tell you that our greatest worry is safety of the athlete under the current Code of Points. Especially on the women’s side.

Consider this discussion paper by William A. Sands, Jeni R. McNeal, Monem Jemni and Gabriella Penitente:


In spite of considerable media, educational, conference, and medical attention, gymnastics’ most serious problem remains – injury.

Programs for injury prevention, recovery, and treatment have been proposed often, implemented haphazardly and have shown little merit with respect to actually reducing injury incidence and rate. The countermeasures involved in injury prevention include a variety of tools ranging from apparatus specifications to the attitudes of administrators, coaches and athletes.

Sadly, if any one of the countermeasures is inadequate an injury is a likely result.

The relative risks of poorly constructed and implemented safety programs, poor training and a lack of imagination, and simple denial of risk are among the most serious threats to attaining and maintaining reduction of injury incidence and rate. …


Bruno Grandi was translated recently as saying “the code has mutated into a time bomb.”

This is it. This vault is the best example of a “time bomb” in our sport today.

Rewarding this vault cannot end well.

Judges in Tokyo are rewarding difficulty far more than quality. That means gymnasts must increase their start score in order to win. This means more difficulty.

Gymnastics was already a dangerous sport. The current rules have made it more dangerous.

The Code of Points and those in charge of the rules are partly responsible.

If over-split on leaps was winning, coaches would be recruiting Rhythmic gymnasts for their club teams. It’s time for the WAG rules to pendulum back to rewarding form, body position, flexibility, rhythm and grace.

I’d ban or devalue the most dangerous skills — multiple forward somersaults landing forwards (as Trampoline did decades ago) for both Men and Women. The big risk on those is scorpion landing.

But I wouldn’t ban skills like triple back. Those are safer.

related – Amy Van Deusen just posted a good historical summary of this issue – Is the scoring system hurting the athletes?

Please leave a comment if you have an opinion on this.

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Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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