Make sure your body is ready to play
Many athletes stretch prior to playing sport as part of their warm up, often performing long stretches of 20-30 seconds, however recent research suggests that these longer stretches can actually lead to strain and injury.
When you stretch a muscle for 20-30 seconds, it decreases the effectiveness of a reflex which is important in keeping the muscle safe from injury. This reflex causes a quick contraction when the length is suddenly increased and long stretches will inhibit this reflex from working, making you more likely to strain the muscle.
Muscle stretches of 20-30 seconds duration should only be done as a stretch to increase the length of a tight muscle but never prior to sport as a warm up.
Safe stretching and warm up
It is important to stretch the muscles and joints to improve your flexibility for sport and we recommend:
- 5 to 10 minutes of jogging or fast walking, enough to get slight perspiration.
- 3 second stretches, 3 times on each key muscle. This prepares your muscles for play, improves your performance and reduces your chances of injury.
The importance of cooling down
Your body needs as much time to cool down as it does to warm up.
After sport or exercise, you must reduce your effort and bring your heart rate down to resting levels - a fast walk for 5-10 minutes followed by short 3 second stretches will reduce the stiffness you feel in your muscles after play.
- Physio will not only hasten healing from injury, the right treatment will improve sporting performance
- Start any new activity slowly
- Take lots of breaks until you build up stamina
- You must warm up areas of previous injury more thoroughly
- Stretch more at the beginning of the season
- With age, your tissues will stiffen hence stretching is more important