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Young Gymnasts Facing Broad Range of New Injuries

MRI scans show knuckle, wrist and bone damage that could develop into early osteoarthritis

MONDAY, Dec. 1, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Young gymnasts now appear to be developing injuries well beyond one common to their sport, a new study says.

Injuries to gymnasts' bones -- especially the growing portions -- are well known, but previously unseen damage to the wrists and knuckles, including necrosis -- or "early death" -- of the bones of the knuckles has been found, according to a study expected to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago.

"The broad constellation of recent injuries is unusual and might point to something new going on in gymnastics training that is affecting young athletes in different ways," the study's lead author, Dr. Jerry Dwek, an assistant clinical professor of radiology at the University of California, San Diego, said in a news release.

"These young athletes are putting an enormous amount of stress on their joints and possibly ruining them for the future," he said.

MRIs of the wrists and hands of 12 gymnasts with chronic wrist or hand pain revealed far more than the typical forearm injuries researchers expected.

"We were surprised to be looking at injuries every step down the hand, all the way from the radius to the small bones in the wrist and on to the ends of the finger bones at the knuckles," Dwek said. "These types of injuries are likely to develop into early osteoarthritis."

He suggested that additional study of how gymnastic stresses cause these injuries might help determine whether changes can be made to practice routines to better limit stress on the joints and growing bones.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about sports injuries.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Dec. 1, 2008
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