Summer is well and truly here and it is time for us to get moving. This means more chances of injury. So how do we protect ourselves?
It’s a common belief that a 5-10minute warm up protocol prior to an event will reduce our chances of having an injury. It has been drilled into our psyche since we were young and continues to this day. We often attribute to any injuries we sustained to “oh I was not warm enough”, or “yeah I should have stretched more”. However, this may not be the case, but before we dive into this topic lets talk about why we stretch in the first place.
Stretching has two distinct effect on our muscles, the first, influences the elasticity of the muscle and the second influences the excitability of the muscle. Looking at the elasticity component, a sustained slow passive stretch can increase the elasticity of the muscle, allowing greater range of motion within our joints. Regarding neural effects of stretching it has been shown to decrease motor neuron excitability, a fancy word term for muscles relaxation. The correct dose of stretching varies between muscle groups, but the general rule of thumb is either a 4x90s or a 5x60s stretch per muscle group, totalling 5 minutes to have an adequate effect.
On the flip side prolonged passive stretching can cause strength induced strength loss to a muscle, where after a bout of stretches the muscle becomes weaker. This induced strength loss is dependent on the type of stretch that is applied, with dynamic stretches.
Currently the research shows that stretching does not reduce the risk of injury, however in certain sports that require large ranges of motion such as ballet or gymnastics, a proper pre-game stretch routine is vital, so that you can reach those ranges. In practical every day activities such as running or going to the gym, activities that does not require large ranges, stretching seems to have little to no effect on injury prevention.
In saying that I am not against stretching, I am against pre-game stretches, I am all for routine stretches as part of your exercise routine to promote joint flexibility. Coming back to what I said earlier about the correct dose, 5 minutes of stretching is needed per muscle group to increase length. Doing a 5-10-minute routine prior to a game does not even come close to what is needed to have an effect.
So how do we protect ourselves?
Well here are a few easy tips to prevent yourself from getting injured this summer:
· Do not bite off more than you can chew
o If you have never ran a 10km fun run before, don’t do it.
· Train appropriately for your event
o Strengthen the muscles that is appropriate to your task.
· Do not play through pain
o Pain is your body telling you to slow down
· Wear the right gear
o This is a no brainer, wear appropriate fitted protective gear such as helmets, knee pads, etc.
· Increase flexibility
o Stretching exercises should be incorporated into a daily fitness plan, not a last ditch effort.
· Take breaks
o By having frequent rest period, you can drastically reduce the risk of injury. When you are tired you are not performing optimally leading to injuries.