Although gymnastics injuries have decreased by 25% between 1990 and 2005, gymnasts still face the same potential for injury as ice hockey players, according to a study released in April by the Center for Injury Research and Policy.

Researchers found that children between the ages of 6 and 11 years had a higher incidence of fractures and dislocations, while children ages 12 to 17 were more likely to have sprains and strains. The most commons injuries suffered by gymnasts involved shoulders, elbows, wrists, ankles, shins and the spine.

Following are tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Federation of State High School Associations to help keep children safe while they go for the gold:

  • The type of club (recreational vs. competitive) should suit your child’s needs.

  • The coach should be experienced with the sport and considerate of your child’s health.

  • Practice time should be limited to 18-20 hours per week to prevent overuse injuries.

  • Your child should never practice without a trainer and proper safety equipment, including at home.

Other dangers associated with gymnastics include pressure to be thin and risk of skin infections. Parents should:

  • Follow the advice of a trained nutritionist rather than of a coach to ensure a proper diet.

  • Look for symptoms of anorexia or irregular periods, which should be discussed immediately with your child’s pediatrician.

  • Make sure safety mats and other surfaces that might be home to infectious bacteria, such as MRSA, ringworm and impetigo, are disinfected often (preferably daily).

  • Never let children share personal items such as uniforms, combs or towels.

Also, if your child experiences any pain while performing daily activities, stop gymnastics activity and rest until the pain is gone.

Finally, children should not specialize in gymnastics before puberty, according to the AAP. This precaution will reduce the risk of overuse injuries, and your child will be less likely to tire of the sport.