Stretching Myths: Why You Need More Than Stretching To Prevent Injuries

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Recently, a local high school contacted our physical therapy department and told us that the coaches of the girls soccer and field hockey teams are interested in having a couple of us come out and teach them some things about injury prevention. They sent us a copy of what they were already doing. They’re request implied that they realize that they’re not doing enough to prevent injuries.

It turns out they are right. The only thing that they are doing during their practice sessions for injury prevention is dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is a way of stretching your muscles with movement. While this is a good start, it is definitely not enough to prevent injury. I would be willing to bet this is the only thing many of you are doing before practicing or working out. If this applies to you, read on and learn what else you should be doing to prevent injury.

What’s The Myth?

The idea of stretching to prevent injury is a common misconception. I hear it all the time, usually from those that coach high school athletes. I have friends that coach girls at the high school level and they are always complaining that the girls get injured because they don’t know how to stretch the right way. Teaching the girls how to stretch properly is important, but it is not the only thing that needs to be done to prevent injuries.

Adolescent females are usually loose jointed and very flexible to begin with, which can actually promote injuries. So, stretching all the time to make them even more flexible is probably not the way to go. These girls may have some specific muscles that are tight that do need some stretching, but over stretching will not benefit them. A dynamic warm up is a good idea before practice or competition just to get the muscles ready to perform, but there are a few other things that need to be incorporated into practice for a well rounded injury prevention program.

What Else Should I Be Doing?

Adolescent girls tend to be much weaker than their male counterparts, so they need to be sure to do a strength training routine that includes hip and core strengthening. A lot of lower limb injuries can be traced back to hip and core weakness.

They should also be doing plyometric and agility drills that promote proper body movement. That way they can learn the right way to do things, rather than using improper movement patterns, and prevent injuries from occurring. Once the body learns and commits proper movement patterns to memory, it will be able to repeat these patterns without thinking and it will be less likely to get injured.

Ideally, these drills would initially be done with someone who understands the way the body should move during certain athletic performance activities so that proper feedback can be given to the athlete to be sure that they are moving properly. Once the athletes understand how to do the drills, they can be incorporated into the regular pre-practice routine throughout the season, and hopefully the rate of injuries on your team will decline.

So remember, while stretching is important, it is just as important to do these other things to prevent injuries.

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