Preseason Injury Prevention Strategy
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:
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 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:
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:
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:
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 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.
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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.
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: