Injury Treatment and Prevention in Gymnastics

Published December 8, 2016

Katie DuFrene, DPT with the Mid-Maryland Musculoskeletal Institute Care Center in Urbana, Md., connects her passions as a gymnast and a physical therapist through the care center’s partnership with the Frederick Gymnastics Club. Katie has been a gymnast her whole life and is familiar with the injuries and pains gymnasts can experience, as well as their reluctance to seek medical attention out of fear of being benched to heal. When she first started working at MMI, she launched the partnership between the care center and the gym to keep athletes healthy and to help them avoid injuries.

Each Tuesday, Katie donates her time to the gym to evaluate injuries that may have already occurred to determine whether the athlete needs rest, rehab or to see a doctor. She also recommends a variety of exercises and activities that can help athletes to avoid future injuries – especially as so many of the injuries gymnasts experience result from overuse. Katie sees athletes of all ages and levels, but spends most of her time with athletes at levels 9 and 10, the highest levels of competition, and many of these athletes spend anywhere from 15-40 hours per week in training. She also works with coaches to help prevent injuries before they happen.

Gymnasts are incredibly active and athletic, and Katie has seen injuries ranging from an elbow fracture to ankle sprains to lower back pain. Many aches and pains, like those in the lower back, can be prevented through core strength exercises, which Katie educates gymnasts about during her time spent at the gym.

One of the great perks of having Katie onsite each week is that the athletes have a quick and easy physician referral system in place. In cases where athletes need to be seen by a physician, Katie is able to refer patients to an MMI physician – often within the same day. And with MMI’s range of specialty physicians, athletes are sure to receive the care that they need.

Since launching this program, MMI has witnessed a positive shift in culture at the gymnastics club. Katie’s background as a gymnast herself has led to an increased level of trust from the athletes. Patients used to avoid a visit to the doctor’s office because they were afraid they would be told to stop competing. But physicians at MMI have a shared goal to get athletes back to competitions quickly and efficiently, and the practice has seen less hesitation for gymnasts to seek medical attention when needed.  

Aside from her special interest in gymnastics, Katie treats general orthopaedic injuries, particularly in the shoulder, knee and ankle. She received her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Maryland, and went on to receive a Dual Doctorate of Physical Therapy and a Master’s degree in Athletic Training from Shenandoah University.