In describing the shaky landing of her Tuesday vault routine at the Tokyo Olympics—after which Simone Biles withdrew from the team and all-around individual competitions—the world's most decorated gymnast said she'd had "a little bit of the twisties." Considering she was attempting to complete a 2 1/2-twisting vault, you'd think the "twisties" were necessary. But "the cute-sounding term ... describes a frightening predicament"—indeed, a gymnast's "worst nightmare," per the Washington Post. Essentially, a gymnast loses control of their body in the air, unsure which way is up or down. It's "like a non-serious stroke," where your brain and body disconnect, tweeted 1988 Olympian Missy Marlowe. "It's terrifying, honestly, because you have no idea what is going to happen," former elite gymnast Sean Melton tells the Post, all while "your life is in danger."
"When you are flying and flipping and turning 10, 15 feet above the floor ... you better be in the right headspace or really bad things are going to happen," former Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller tells CNBC. Biles, 24, noted "you have to be there 100% or 120%" or you'll risk getting hurt, per the Post. Though she avoided physical injury, other gymnasts spoke out, saying they weren't so lucky in similar situations. One case of the twisties "damn near ended the sport for me," wrote a Twitter user. "I gave myself the worst concussion of my career ... and it took months to recover my equilibrium and to trust my [judgment]." Marlowe noted recovery "can take months, if at all." As the Post explains, with the twisties, "instinct gets replaced by thought. Thought quickly leads to worry," and "worry is difficult to escape." Biles has yet to say whether she'll compete in individual events. (Read more Simone Biles stories.)