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How to Prepare to Be a Circus Performer Without Injury

Physical Therapy in Grapevine for Foot

Q: We have a 13-year old gymnast for a daughter who insists she is going to join the Cirque du Soleil circus as soon as she leaves home. My husband is seeing the medical bills piling up for injuries of all kind. As a former gymnast (local only) myself, I assure him she will be trained to avoid injuries. What else can I tell him to get him to calm down and see reason about this decision?

A: At age 13, she has a few years yet to train. Avoiding injuries during this phase should be the focus of any discussion regarding her gymnastics. Taking dance classes, tumbling, yoga, and t'ai chi are all part of today's gymnast's daily training schedule. Working hard, taking appropriate rest breaks, and training smart is what it's all about these days.

If your daughter is under the supervision of a senior gymnastics instructor, she is probably getting advice and direction about what to do to prepare herself for a life in the circus arts. There are even a few schools around the country that specialize in this sort of thing. Depending on where you live, it may be a good idea to take advantage of something like this.

The truth is that Cirque du Soleil performers have a low rate of injury -- lower than other athletes, including competitive gymnasts. There are certain types of injuries that occur such as shoulder injuries, rib and foot fractures, and hip/groin strains.

For all circus artists, work schedules are reviewed and managed to avoid excessive workload without adequate rest periods. All Cirque du Soleil performers are encouraged to report any and all injuries, no matter how minor. Quickly addressing the problem, providing appropriate rehab, and restoring strength and conditioning are key factors to successfully minimizing the impact of injuries.

Reference: Ian Shrier, MD, PhD, et al. Injury Patterns and Injury Rates in the Circus Arts. June 2009. Vol. 37. No. 6. Pp. 1143-1149.