Mrs. Vee's Piano Studio

Click here to edit subtitle

Suggestions & Tips

view:  full / summary

Be careful of sports injuries--for many reasons!

Posted by Connie Vellekoop on September 9, 2010 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (43)

Gymnastics and Injuries

This online article discussing the problem of gymnastics and injury is worth taking note of: (Out of my “grandmotherly and piano-teacheristic” concern for my students--especially after a student's mother related to me how she broke her neck in a dismount gone badly wrong at a competition, and was just a fraction of an inch away from being a quadriplegic.)


Gymnastics injuries are an unavoidable aspect of the sport, with the frequency and the severity of these occurrences rising in proportion to the ascent of an athletes towards elite status. The causes of gymnastics injuries are usually interrelated. The physics of the sport dictates that the athlete will sustain significant forces during every gymnastics routine, particularly during the landing sequence of a particular maneuver. Gymnastics is a sport where competitive success is built upon the precise movements that are developed through intense and repetitive practice, a circumstance which lends itself naturally to overuse and repetitive strain injuries that may potentially occur in every joint of the body. Less frequently, an athlete will make an error during a routine that results in a fall or other trauma.

In gymnastics, the object in every dismount from an apparatus or concluding movement is to "stick the landing," the colloquial expression where the athlete is able to land emphatically on both feet in one stride or bound, without the need to steady themselves through the taking of an additional stabilizing step. In many routines, the athlete lands on a mat that provides a measure of cushioning, but this does not absorb all of the landing forces generated by the athlete. Where the athlete lands with legs angled in an position where the landing forces will be distributed unevenly, or with their legs rigid, the landing forces pose a significant risk of injury to gymnasts, primarily to the feet, ankles and knees of the athlete.

The gymnasts are subject to long workouts that tax every joint and muscle structure in the body. The hands and wrists absorb significant forces in floor exercises and all work involving devices such as the horizontal bar, the vault, or the parallel bars. All other musculoskeletal joints from the hips through to the toes are involved to some extent in every gymnastics routine. The most common injuries are those to connective tissue structures, particularly muscle strains and ligament strains.

Studies conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) determined that the most common form of shoulder injury occurs in relation to the parallel bars and horizontal bar, as a result of the athlete performing handstands on the bars during the routine. Both rotator cuff damage, the structure of four muscles positioned at the top of the shoulder responsible for much of the rotation available in the joint, and clavicle (collarbone) fractures are common injuries among gymnasts at the NCAA level.

Elbow injuries are usually a result either a ring routine or a floor routine, where the elbow becomes hyper extended (forced more than 10° past its maximum range of straightening motion) on landing. The other joint most susceptible to hyperextension is the knee, usually as a result of a missed landing where the leg strikes the landing mat in a fully extended (straightened) position.

Forearm injuries are most often observed in young gymnasts whose bone structure is not completely formed. The repetitive stress of landing that are absorbed in the forearm distresses the bone's growth plate, the softer area located at the epiphysis of both the ulnar and radial bones of the forearm.

Foot and ankle injuries are the most common of gymnastics injuries. These may also be repetitive strain or chronic injuries, as well as the result of a single incident, such as the athlete landing awkwardly at the edge of the mat, causing the ankle to twist. The longer bones of the foot, the metacarpals, are vulnerable to stress fractures through overuse, as is the lower shin of the tibia.

As with every other sport where athlete's must generate sudden and explosive movement through leg drive, an anterior cruciate ligament injury (ACL) is a risk in gymnastics participation. Consistent with the research conducted with respect to ACL injuries in other sports, female gymnasts are between two to six times more likely to sustain an ACL injury than a male gymnast, primarily due to the relative width of the female pelvis in relation to femur length. This structural factor creates greater pressure upon the knee as the athlete jumps or accelerates. The nature of the gymnastics landing, where the athlete is under competitive pressure to "stick the landing" directs greater pressure into the knee joint.

Spinal injuries are less common but often ones that serve to destroy the career of a gymnast. The lumbar spine region (the low back) is a frequent location of sprains and contusions, most often as a result of chronic stress. The cervical spine, the seven vertebrae complex that extends from below the base of the skull, forming the spine of the neck, is most often injured during a fall or other accident involving a piece of apparatus.

The Great Debate--Parental Involvement?!

Posted by Connie Vellekoop on January 19, 2010 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (0)

One of the issues that appears frequently is that of Parental Involvement in the pianistic progress of a student.

    Age of the student is the main factor--the younger the student, the more the parent needs to be involved: Reminding about practice time, making sure it happens, reading the notebook with the student and making sure he/she understands what and how to practice.

     As the student matures, the parent can involve themselves less and less -- BUT, always keeping an ear tuned to what's going on!  YOU are paying a lot of money for this, so it's to your best interest to make sure your child is progressing as they should. 

:lol: I'm a firm believer in "You live under my roof, eat my food, so I call the shots!"  This does not have to be done in a domineering, belligerent way.  It's what I call "cheerful obdurance!"  And believe me, this is all from LONG experience with my own kids.  I have heard EVERY excuse, ALL the tearful complaints, and ANY kind of temper tantrum.  With calm demeanor and folded arms, I reminded them, "I, your mother, cannot be moved!"

      I WOULD like to gently request, though, that if the parent is sitting in on the lesson, to please not offer corrections, reprimands, and comments to your offspring during the lesson.  I am perfectly capable of correcting even (gasp!) BAD ATTITUDES.  Yup, I've seen them all and I have my ways of dealing with it.  And if it's a musical correction needed, I take into account the priority and importance of the mistake--sometimes choosing to focus on only one or two issues.



Why Count Out Loud?

Posted by Connie Vellekoop on January 16, 2010 at 9:53 PM Comments comments (1)

:D Ask any piano teacher!  Counting out loud is near and dear to our hearts!  We view it as our favorite form of torture--second only to metronome use!

Just kiddin' of course, but this is exactly what some students seem to see it as.  But let me explain the reasons why I hound, cajole, threaten and bribe students to count out loud:

1. To keep the beat steady

2. To play the right note values (whole, half, quarter, eighths, etc.)

3. To know where you are in the measure--"Am I on the first beat or the third?" Etc.

4. It keeps the student focused on the music (it's hard to think about other things if you're counting out loud.)

5. For some reason no one seems to be able to explain--the person seems to play the notes better--not as many errors.  One of my teachers used to say: "Saying it---makes playing it!"