Gymnasts spend a lot of time pointing their toes (ankle plantarflexion). It's part of the sport. They spend less time bending their ankle the opposite direction (called ankle dorsiflexion). Imbalances between pointing and bending the ankle result in stiffness to the surrounding tissues. Sometimes a gymnasts calf muscles are tight, but more frequently the ankle joint itself is the problem.
Another contributing factor is repetitive "bad" landings, especially short landings. Short landings require the ankle to have an excess amount of motion. Given that most gymnasts have some tightness in their ankles, anything requiring any more motion is going to hurt.
There are many other factors that can play a role as well, including improper jumping and landing technique or strength and stability issues of the legs, hips, and core.
The bottom line is if a gymnast is experiencing ankle pain during jumping, landing, tumbling, or dismounting, then they need to be looked at by a movement specialist. The problem is not likely to just "go away". No one wants to ignore the pain and develop stress fractures, ankle sprains, and Achilles problems that can jeopardize a gymnast's career.
Info to help you move better, feel better, get back to the gymnastics and other sports you love...
Dr. Christine Walker
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