As young athletes strive for peak athletic performance, they may be tempted to push their bodies to the limit, including attempting extreme back bending poses. However, there is a growing concern among medical professionals about the potential dangers of back bending at a young age. In this article, we will explore the truth about back bending and its impact on the spine in youth sports.

Understanding the Risks

Back bending, or bending the spine in a way that stretches it beyond its neutral position, can be a controversial topic when it comes to young children. While some believe that back bending can help improve flexibility and posture, others worry that it may put too much strain on the developing spine.

One of the main concerns with back bending at a young age is the potential for injury. The spine is a complex structure made up of bones, discs, muscles, and ligaments that are still developing during childhood. Putting too much stress on the spine through excessive bending or improper technique can lead to issues like strained muscles, herniated discs, or even long-term spinal misalignment.

A recent study has shown that female gymnasts and swimmers have a greater incidence of spinal problems in comparison to their peers, however this was correlated with training hours. Back pain in children accounts for approximately 18% of injuries, with athletic children showing incidences of 46% and gymnastics literature indicating ranges from 11-85% (Flynn, Ughwanogho and Cameron, 2011).

The Importance of Proper Technique

While there are risks associated with back bending, it’s essential to note that with proper technique and guidance, it can be done safely. Children who are interested in activities like gymnastics, dance, or yoga should be taught how to perform back bends correctly to reduce the risk of injury.

Too often, young gymnasts are not supervised with sufficient attention to detail and are allowed to perform spine-stretching exercises that result in poor positions that remain uncorrected (see picture below). Sadly, the early exposures to spine-stretching movements and positions are often habituated through repetition and must be corrected later, with a considerable investment in skill re-education, time and adjustment of positions. Too often, the early learning habits acquired from this type of training are never completely extinguished in later training and become manifest when the young gymnast attempts new skills or novel movements, or is placed under competitive stress.

Fizzy Lemon Physiotherapy - Backbend


This image shows young gymnasts performing warm up stretching of their spines. Note the poor position and lack of emphasis on stacking the shoulders and using the glutes to lift their hips higher. A child should be assessed to see if they have enough shoulder and wrist flexibility, glute strength, thoracic and lumbar extension to complete this skill safely prior to completing it.

Fizzy Lemon Physiotherapy - Backbend Position


The photo above shows the correct alignment of a bridge.

What is a hinge point?

In every person, you will find that a segment of your spine is naturally more mobile than another, usually the lumbar and cervical spine. A hinge point is when a few segments of the spine, most commonly L4-S1 and T12-L1, appear to bend much more than the others.

Hinge points are not inherently bad or dangerous or mean that someone is going to automatically develop a back injury. Many elite level athletes actually utilise these hinge points effectively, however, the ideal way of extending is preferred by evenly distributing the flexibility throughout the spine. By utilising more segments of the spine, this theoretically takes excessive strain off any one point.

Over time, repetitive movement through this hinge-point can lead to pain. Individuals struggling would highly benefit from a Physiotherapy assessment.

Fizzy Lemon Physiotherapy - What is a hinge point?


Consulting with Professionals

Young gymnasts may benefit from initial screening for hypermobility syndrome prior to participation.

Persistent back pain that lasts longer than 2 weeks should result in referral of the gymnast for a complete evaluation.

If you have concerns about your child’s participation in activities that involve back bending, don’t hesitate to consult with healthcare professionals or experienced instructors.


The literature also does not condemn the skill as too dangerous. Clearly, more research needs to be conducted. However, the back-bend does not appear to provide a threat to the health of youngsters, provided that they are well supervised, are carefully instructed through lead-up skills, possess the strength to support themselves in the position and understand that if they feel pain, they must contact their coach immediately so that the pain can be assessed (Sands et al, 2016


Flynn JM, Ughwanogho E, Cameron DB. The growing spine and sports. In: Akbarnia BA, Yazici M, Thompson GH, editors. The growing spine. Heidelberg: Springer; 2011. pp. 151–162.

Sands WA, McNeal JR, Penitente G, Murray SR, Nassar L, Jemni M, Mizuguchi S, Stone MH. Stretching the Spines of Gymnasts: A Review. Sports Med. 2016 Mar;46(3):315-27. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0424-6. PMID: 26581832; PMCID: PMC4769315

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