Drayer Therapists Helps Gymnasts Stay Healthly and StrongAug 25 |
Evaluate, prevent, treat and rehabilitate. These are four main actions that North Stars alumni, Marla Ranieri, takes to ensure that each athlete is healed and healthy by the season’s start.
As a former collegiate and international elite gymnast, Ranieri experienced several injuries and surgeries. Struggling to stay healthy and facing difficulty as she worked with physical therapists who didn’t understand the sport of gymnastics, Ranieri decided to become a doctor of physical therapy to help injured gymnasts nationwide.
Ranieri graduated from Stanford University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in human biology. She then proceeded her education and received a doctoral degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2009. Currently, Ranieri is Doctor of Physical Therapy at Drayer Physical Therapy who works closely with North Stars Gymnastics and many other gymnastics teams around the country.
Since 2011, Ranieri has also provided physical therapy coverage at USA gymnastics competitions such as the USA American Classic, USA Visa Championships, Nastia Liukin Cup, Kellogs Tour of Gymnastics Champions, AT&T American Cup, and P&G Gymnastics Championships. She has recently developed a Gymnastics Injury Prevention Assessment with a goal of decreasing injuries in the gymnastics population.
“Gymnastics is a great sport for adolescents as it builds strength, flexibility, character and work ethic,” explained Ranieri.
However, like many other sports, injury is a major part of gymnastics. Ranieri visits North Stars every week and works closely with injured gymnasts. Whether the gymnast is suffering from muscle pain, joint pain, or any other physical setback, Ranieri evaluates what the problem is and provides knowledge and assistance for the gymnast to get back on track the correct way.
“Low back pain is the most common injury among gymnasts,” said Ranieri. “This can be prevented by focusing on posture, working on deep core muscle activation (transversus abdominis) which wraps around like a corset to stabilize the back, maintaining good shoulder flexibility, upper back mobility and hip flexibility,” she added.
According to Ranieri’s experience, “muscle and flexibility imbalances” are the most common cause of injury among gymnasts. “If there is a mobility deficit or strength deficit somewhere along the chain, then compensations start to occur causing increased wear and tear at the joint. These compensation patterns worsen with increasing intensity and frequency of training causing injury,” said Ranieri.
She identified injuries that are generally caused by this as “overuse injuries.”
Another common issue Ranieri observes among gymnasts is when an injury is ignored until the point where it becomes severe.
“It is important to recognize an injury when it first occurs whether it is minor or severe and take action to communicate with your coaches, make appropriate modifications and seek out appropriate medical services,” she explained.
North Stars has a large team of medical professionals available to their athletes including physical therapists, as well as chiropractors, nutritionists, sports psychologists, medical doctors, etc. With many resources at hand, North Stars coaches encourage the athletes to seek out services when in need.
Ranieri’s recommendation to gymnasts who are trying to stay healthy and strong, is to “eat a well-balanced diet, get plenty of rest before practice, be proactive about having an injury prevention assessment performed and communicate honestly with the coaches about injuries.”