MIAMISBURG, Ohio — As a high school gymnast, Emma Brun is no stranger to doctors. She sees a dietician, chiropractors, physical therapists, all to get in the shape she needs to put her best foot forward.
This year though, she began experiencing a few physical and mental blocks, prompting her to take a step back from the sport she loves. Now, she’s hoping a new program at Dayton Children’s can help her get back on track.
The Center for the Female Athlete launched in the spring of 2021, but doctors, trainers and sports medicine specialists at Dayton Children’s have been working to develop the programming for years.
Jamie Broz, manager of Sports Medicine at Dayton Children’s, said the center focuses on girls starting around age 11 working to excel in sport as their bodies grow and develop and puts their needs at the forefront.
She said the center serves as sort of a “one-stop-shop,” for girls, where they can get nutritional services, physical and behavioral therapy, mental health counseling, while also seeing specialists to diagnose any issues they may be facing with their athletic performance.
“There’s really no other place where an athlete can come and get it done in one day, have all the providers there in one house and really get it treated altogether,” she said.
The Center for the Female Athlete took its first few patients this spring, and Brun was one of them.
“It was a lot of support that I didn’t even know that I needed,” she said.
Nico Elkins, one of the athletic trainers at the center, took Brun through gait testing her first day to check her strength and flexibility, as well as diagnose any potential injury liabilities.
“For example, during the broad jump,” she said. “If her knees fall that’s a sign that she’s at risk for ACL injuries.”
All of the staff at the center are women, and most have experience as athletes themselves. Elkins said that gives the team perspective when it comes to understanding what the girls need and how to make them comfortable.
“I myself play beach volleyball,” she said. “I’m a soccer player and I love playing lacrosse.”
Brun said she joined the center to get some nutritional support, while also overcoming a few physical and mental barriers she’s facing at the gym.
“Getting all of that into remission and being able to overcome all of that is extremely important to me right now,” she said. “It’s about 50/50 a mental sport and a physical sport."
Brun fell in love with gymnastics as a child.
“When I was really little, I used to always say, ‘I want to be a bird when I grow up,’” she said. “I really, really wanted to fly.”
Tumbling was the closest thing she could find.
“You learn a lot more than you think you’re going to,” she said. “You learn endurance grit. You learn how to put your best foot forward and overcome challenges.”
Through the center, Brun said she set her own goals, not just to return to the gym, but also to build up healthy habits she can carry with her the rest of her life.
“If you build a foundation, that’s where you can really start to grow as an athlete,” she said. “To build that foundation and have a strong system and making sure you have the tools to keep yourself in good health.”
Once she has that foundation back, Brun hopes soon she’ll be able to pick up where she left off.