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Preseason Injury Prevention Strategy

Introduction

Phil Campbell unveils a new injury prevention strategy that coaches and athletes can easily implement to prevent preseason training injuries.

In a perfect world, athletes would show up the first day of practice in great condition and prepared for physically demanding practice sessions. The reality of sports coaching is, however, that most athletes do not adequately prepare during the off-season and planning for this can minimize the risk of preseason injury. The coaching strategy for preseason is simple - use static stretching before training to intentionally slow-down athletes during early preseason practice sessions.

Use static stretching during early preseason training to intentionally slow-down athletes

It is well documented that static stretching, while wonderful for improving flexibility for athletes when performed with correct timing, can slightly impair speed and strength immediately after stretching:

Overall, these findings, in conjunction with previous studies, indicated that static stretching impairs maximal force production. Strength and conditioning professionals should consider this before incorporating static stretching in preperformance activities. (Cramer 2004)[1].

Essentially, there are two main types of stretching, dynamic mobility stretching - moving while stretching (arm swings, knee rotations, neck circles), and static stretching (holding a stretching exercise in one position without movement). And this form of stretching slightly impairs performance for up to an hour:

These data indicate that prolonged stretching of a single muscle decreases voluntary strength for up to 1 hour after the stretch as a result of impaired activation and contractile force. (Fowles 2000)[2].

These studies begin to paint a picture of how to design a training plan to build flexibility and improve athletic performance through research-based stretching. While stretching as a warm-up has come under attack recently (to the amazement of most experienced coaches), researchers have actually studied the studies on this topic, and report:

Due to the paucity (small number), heterogeneity (dissimilar study subjects) and poor quality of the available studies no definitive conclusions can be drawn as to the value of stretching for reducing the risk of exercise-related injury (Weldon 2003)[3]

Essentially, the researchers are saying that there are not enough quality studies to draw conclusions about this issue yet. The world famous Centres for Disease Control also investigated this issue and concur:

There is not sufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue routine stretching before or after exercise to prevent injury among competitive or recreational athletes. Further research, especially well-conducted randomised controlled trials, is urgently needed to determine the proper role of stretching in sports. (Hacker 2004)[4].

More research in this area will definitively address this issue, but for now, stretching stays a part of my warm-up for ballistic sports training. In my personal speed training, I have seen many athletes increase their explosive speed by .2 to .3 seconds in 36 meter sprints by performing static stretching homework during a four week period. The homework instructions are to use 30-second stretch-holds targeted at hamstrings, hip-flexors, quads and Achilles for a 10-minute routine four times a week. The key to making stretching a valuable coaching tool is to use the proper form of stretching at the proper time to accomplish specific training goals. Early in the preseason begin with static stretching followed by dynamic mobility stretching during the warm-up.

Use Dynamic Mobility Stretching during the season

Once the initial period of conditioning is completed and athletes are ready to increase the intensity of speed during practice, drop static stretching and continue with dynamic mobility stretching throughout the season. The only exception would be to deploy the static stretching strategy for athletes as they return to practice after recovering from injury. Studies show that stretching can aid in the prevention of injury when properly timed in the training plan. Researchers conclude in two studies:

Prevention of stress fractures is most effectively accomplished by increasing the level of exercise slowly, adequately warming up and stretching before exercise, (Slandering 2003)[5].
Static stretching decreased the incidence of muscle-related injuries but did not prevent bone or joint injuries. (Ama ko 2003)[6].

The military recruit study shows that stretching does not help prevent joint-related injuries, but it does prevent muscle-related injuries common in ballistic sports. These studies make the case for using dynamic mobility stretching that master coach Brian Mackenzie has taught for years. Static stretching builds flexibility and should be performed regularly, just not immediately before a big game or a key practice session.

Have athletes perform static stretching with 30-second stretch-holds away from practice sessions

Gains in flexibility are dependent on the "duration" of stretch-hold position, and researchers show the best "stretch-hold position" (for time-spent) to increase flexibility is 30 seconds (The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles, 1994, Bandy). "Best" means optimal results for time-spent. Athletes can get positive results with 2-minute stretch-holds, but 30 seconds gets equal results and is much more efficient. Researchers report:

The results of this study suggest that, although both static stretch and DROM (dynamic stretching) will increase hamstring flexibility, a 30-second static stretch was more effective than the newer technique, DROM, for enhancing flexibility. (Bandy 2001)[7].

The best method to improve flexibility is static stretching, however, this form of stretching will slow-down athletes for up to an hour.

Implement flexibility training periodization

Flexibility training periodization can be accomplished by using dynamic mobility stretching and static stretching at the correct times in the training plan. Dynamic stretching will aid in the pre-competition, pre-practice warm-up process by increasing flexion in the joints and increasing body temperature. This method is preferred before athletic competition. Use static stretching with 30-seconds stretch holds away from practice and only before practice when the training strategy is to intentionally slow-down athletes.

Athlete performance research changes quickly!

Research in sport performance is continually advancing, sometimes at break-neck speed, and that is why it is important for coaches who want to keep the competitive edge and get the most from their athletes need to track the research findings concerning the latest training techniques or read newsletters that do this for them. And this is why I am pleased to contribute to Brian MacKenzie's newsletter because it brings the latest research findings concerning improving athletic performance for coaches who whish to keep the competitive edge.


References

  1. CRAMER (2004) Acute effects of static stretching on peak torque in women. J Strength Cond Res., 18
  2. FOWLES (2000) Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantar flexors
  3. WELDON (2003) The efficacy of stretching for prevention of exercise-related injury: a systematic review of the literature
  4. HACKER, S.B. (2004) The impact of stretching on sports injury risk: a systematic review of the literature. Med Sic Sports Exec.
  5. SLANDERING (2003) Common stress fractures
  6. AMA KO, M. (2003) Effect of static stretching on prevention of injuries for military recruits. Mil Med.
  7. BANDY (2001) The effect of static stretch and dynamic range of motion training on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work then the reference for this page is:

  • CAMPBELL, P. (2006) Preseason Injury Prevention Strategy [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article016.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Phil Campbell is a personal trainer and a master athlete holding several USA Track and Field Master titles. He has a black belt in Isshinryu Karate and has competed and won titles in martial arts and weight lifting competitions. This article has been produced here with his kind permission.

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