Parental concerns regarding safety in gymnastic matting would not be a surprise. The cost of gymnastic mats is not an issue to most parents as long as the safety of their gymnast is secured. Without proper gymnastic mats, the training habits of the gymnast are affected. Thickness, material, and types or purposes of the matting are a few of the factors to be considered when buying gymnastic mats.
Thickness is the most important factor when choosing gymnastic mats. It greatly reduces the risk of injury by also reducing the impact and stress produced by some gymnastic activities. Basically, there are three thickness types of gymnastic mats: 1-3/8 inches; 2 inches; and 2-3/8 inches.
The 1-3/8 inches thick gymnastic mats are recommended for general exercises and stretching. It is also good for low impact aerobics and non-gymnastic play areas. The 2 inch thick gymnastic mats are recommended for tumbling and other high impact activities. The 2-3/8 inch thick gymnastic mats are great also for high impact gymnastic activities. However, the 2-3/8 inch thick gymnastic mats are more advantageous because it provides better rebound, more energy absorption and reduces stress on joints.
Foam is basically the material used for gymnastic mats. Rubber is completely different from foam. Foam is recommended for gymnastics. There are two types of foam: the crosslink (or the polyethylene) foam; and the polyfoam (or polyurethane foam).
Crosslink foam, or polyethylene foam, is the most recommended for gymnastic mats. It has been also recognized as the international standard for gymnastics. Crosslink foams are firm closed cell foams that have great rebound capabilities, durable and are lightweight. This type of foam is great for serious tumbling and gymnastic activities. Not just for gymnastics, it is also recommended for martial arts, wrestling and other high impact and combat sports.
Polyfoams or polyurethane foams are open cell spongy foams with poor rebound capabilities and will disintegrate or break down faster than crosslink foams or polyethylene foams. Polyfoam or polyurethane foam may be more suitable for younger athletes, or kids, who create less force when tumbling. However, polyfoam is softer than polyethylene and greatly minimizes injury more than the crosslink type. Polyfoams provide a safer landing surface for kids 3 to 8 years old, especially for basic tumbling skills and movement education.
There are many types of gymnastic mats: landing mats, folding mats, folding panel mats, power panel mats, flexible beams and cartwheel mats, flexible skill mats, training mats, throw mats, sting mats, and cartwheel mats. There are also some new specialized gymnastic mats: the air mats and the "x" mats (or target mats). The air mat is a new type of gymnastic mat, which is constructed with the same materials that are used for the manufacture of tires, meaning it is extremely durable and resilient. There are thousands of hand-sewn threads for additional support and extra rebound.
Whatever specific gymnastic activity or purpose, there is also a specialized type of gymnastic mat that is suitable. What is important is you can identify which one is right for your specific activity.