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Elite Training, Elite Rehab

Elite Training Elite Rehab Elite Training, Elite RehabWe work with all types of people and levels of athletes but every once in a while there is patient who stands out. A little more than a year ago I met Jordan Chiles for a minor ankle injury that cleared up. A few weeks later she showed up with knee pain. It quickly became clear that Jordan wasn’t a typical kid. After a short conversation with Jordan’s mother, Gina Chiles, I learned that she is an elite junior gymnast. Unless you are a gymnast or an enthusiast that follows the “up-and-comings” it is unlikely that you have heard of her but likely will as she is on a short list of gymnasts to represent the USA at the Tokyo Olympics. A simple Google search for “Jordan Chiles” shows that she isn’t an average kid.

Given that she doesn’t train like most kids her mother decided that her injuries would benefit from a unique therapy plan. We worked on an “on-call” type model in her gym (Naydenov in Vancouver, WA) so that her interventions could be more specifically tailored to the higher demands of training and preventing the next injury before it happened. Focusing on injury prevention without interrupting her training allowed Jordan to remain focused and minimize lost time to injuries. I recently got to sit down with Gina for a quick interview with her about Jordan’s training and how she stays healthy through the stress of elite level training.

jordanchilesunevenbars Elite Training, Elite RehabGina, how did Jordan get into gymnastics?

She was very hyper active. To the point where we questioned if her teachers at school would try to label her. We had been told about a gymnastics center nearby (Naydenov) which seemed to fit, since she was teaching herself cartwheels and flips to burn off the energy of being a kid.

When did you realized that Jordan was training/competing at a different level than her peers?

Shortly after her first few meets. She wasn’t very consistent yet, but she started progressing after realizing what it felt like to top the podium. She started skipping levels and competing with girls twice her age or more.

What is it like having a child that is an up and coming star in the gymnastics world?

It is surreal. We consider ourselves blessed to see her experience her journey to achieve a dream. We were clueless about all of it- my brother has always said she would be here, since she was 7.

What role does her family and friends play in supporting her training?

It is HUGE. Everyone sacrifices in one way or another, but everyone is 100% committed and we couldn’t ask for a better support team. We are her drivers…and we are her mental health givers. It’s a tough schedule and a tough road with hills and valleys. We experience it all with her, but she is the one actually doing it.

How many hours per week do you think you invest into training?

That is tough to quantify. We have done it so long, it has become a lifestyle. I have often found myself taking the exit to her gym even if I am not going there. We are on auto-pilot. It is a daily/hourly process that begins from the time she wakes up at 5:30 AM to the time she goes to bed at 9-10 PM. Our kids (she has 4 older siblings) knew that “vacations” were planned around her competitions. We have been able to travel the world to see her compete. We always joke and ask her “where will you be taking us this year”.

How many hours does Jordan spend training?

About 30 hours a week. 6 days a week.

How do you see her training shaping who she is as a person?

It is hard to separate the two when they have been one so long, but Jordan is not just a gymnast. She has so many other amazing gifts and qualities. She has just found her groove at an early age. Something many of us take a lifetime to realize. Gymnastics changed a hyper active child and turned her into a disciplined focused being.

What strategies have you used to prevent injuries? How often do injuries happen at this level of competition?

I don’t have the ability to prevent injuries in a sport where it kind of comes with territory, but I believe in the power of prayer so I pray A LOT for her. Injuries happen more often than anyone cares for. Physical Therapy is part of the necessary treatment and preventative treatment for every elite athlete. Jordan has had some nagging injuries and pains. The only way to work through them was through physical therapy. It is also reassurance from a professional who can feel and see why they are feeling discomfort. Letting the athlete know they aren’t dying and it can be fixed lifts a huge burden off of a competitive mind. These kids are doing very high level, gravity and mind defying skills. If the mind bails out, distracted by injuries, the body will fold.

I know she has already been talking with college recruiters, do they ever look at past injuries and how athletes recover?

They look at every single aspect. I am sure it is something they consider although in gymnastics injury is common. I imagine if an athlete had shoulder surgery a year prior to entering into college or chronically lost training time due to an injury that won’t resolve, they would have their team doctors speak with the treating doctor and physical therapists to see where they are in the recovery process and what the outcome is expected to be.

Thanks and go Team USA. We are looking forward to seeing how many time she can redefine “possible.”

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