Overcoming Obstacles: Gymnasts battle injuries

Megan McEldowney

Kent State gymnast Whitnee Johnson shows off her ability to perform through an injury while on the uneven bars.

Gymnastics may look graceful up close, but behind the scenes, it is a brutal and demanding sport. Injuries most frequently include strains and sprains, but traumatic ones that send athletes into surgery can occur as well.

“Gymnastics is said to be a brutal sport for several reasons,” said Ali Marrero, a Kent State freshman gymnast. “First, it requires year-round training to maintain your body strength needed to be able to compete at such a difficult level. Secondly, when you practice these skills so frequently, your body and muscles take a beating. This makes you more prone to injuries.”

Marrero underwent appendix surgery a couple months ago. After her surgery, she had to make a recovery back into the intense sport.

“After my injury, it was really tough to get back to where I was,” Marrero said. “It was difficult seeing my whole team progress as I was struggling to get back into shape. Coming back to gymnastics was both physically and mentally challenging. I worked really hard to get back to where I was, not only for myself, but for my team.”

Whitnee Johnson, a senior gymnast at Kent State, just recovered from an ankle injury. She had to go through surgery over the summer and physical therapy to compete again.

“I injured it my sophomore year at the end of our gymnastics season,” Johnson said. “I landed a vault, what we call short, so my ankles were behind me, and I just kind of crunched it really bad and I felt a really big pop in it. We found out I had torn my posterior tibial tendon.”

Freshman Rachel Stypinski is faced everyday with the brutality and intensity of the sport as a Kent State gymnast.

“I think gymnastics is very brutal on your body with the nonstop pounding and long hours of practice,” Stypinski said. “My most recent injury was about three years ago. I tore three ligaments and tendons, while I broke two bones in my left foot. It took me about a year to get back to where I was before I got hurt, but because this wasn’t my first time getting hurt, I knew how to handle the emotions better, which helped me get back quicker. That is definitely one of my biggest accomplishments in the sport, getting over that struggle.”

Contact Megan McEldowney at [email protected].