What is the first thing that comes to mind when an athlete “pulls” a muscle?
The most common response is that the athlete should’ve stretched more or that they need more flexibility to prevent that injury. Multiple studies have shown this to be an incorrect assumption. There is actually a direct correlation between aerobic fitness and injury prevention. Aerobic fitness levels can actually aid in recovery as well. This is why baseball pitchers engage in some form of conditioning on the days that they are not throwing.
So the answer may be evident but let us pose the question of which is better: static stretching or dynamic stretching?
Both, but only with an aerobic component and activities that emphasize strengthening, jumping, or other similar activities. A proper warm-up should include, but not be limited to, some form of running activity laced with a dynamic stretching program and a short static stretch.
Whatever it is that you as a coach, parent, sports medicine professional, or athlete choose to do for a pre game routine, make sure it has scientific validation. Don’t just do something because that is the way it has always been done.
The Biggest Loser……..Our View of Kids
We have all seen or heard of the show The Biggest Loser and many feel that this is the best approach with kids. Belittle and berate them with the hopes that they will be broken down so coaches can “build” them back up. I can say that this approach is acceptable for adults (if that is what they want), however, is a much poorer approach with children. Adults are biologically and psychologically prepared for this type of treatment, but children are not. We often drive children to the breaking point thus turning them away from particular sports and an active life. Childhood obesity is on the rise and we as adults are trying to attack it from a logical point of view. We need to attack it with a child like passion, with raw emotion based on science. The real kicker is, it doesn’t take science to know that the more active an individual is, the more energy they expend, and wait for it…..the more weight they lose. Now with that being said, lets apply that same principle to coaching children in athletics. Often we pursue coaching from an adult standpoint, trying to accomplish particular goals because that is what we are comfortable doing. Let’s step outside the box and not think of children like our equals—they are still kids and the science lays out a wonderful model of developing them. The kicker is the Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) model actually has the potential to lead to better athletes, but still allows for children to learn healthy lifestyles. Look at the way you or your child’s coaching model is portrayed, if it the “Jillian” model (from the Biggest Loser) then the retention rate will be lower for kids to continue athletics thus increasing the potential for obesity.
It is important to have a plan when an injured athlete is returning to participation. Hitting and throwing progressions are a great way to slowly build the arm strength and mechanics necessary to return to practice and competition safely. Too many athletes jump right back into a full practice after they have recovered from an injury which in turn tends to prompt poor mechanics due to fatigue thus increasing their risk of future injury. Throwing a baseball, softball, or football is really no different then running a marathon. There is a level of conditioning that needs to occur prior to participating in a competetive environment. There are many plans available either from your treating physician or those included in the book. We have created very specific plans for all ages, positions, and needs. Have fun and play ball, play safe.