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Does stretching help to prevent injury risk?

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As a footballer having played for 20+ years, I have seen some pretty drastic changes in the way “warm-ups” are conducted. Do yourself a favour and watch Diego Maradonna warming up in his prime on YouTube – you will be treated to some stretching, dancing, smiling and him juggling a ball. I also remember getting to soccer as a young kid; the coach would always start warming up with static stretching. Following this, we might start practicing shooting to prepare us for the game. Coaches and players would never start this type of activity without an adequate warm-up these days. 

Although warm-ups have changed over time, one thing seems to be relatively constant in warm-ups at a lot of levels of sport; and that is STRETCHING. I still hear coaches at all levels of sport promoting stretching as something that will prevent injuries. This is pretty far from the truth and is inconsistent with what the current research tells us. Although stretching often feels great and shouldn’t necessarily be discouraged, research has identified that it DOES NOT reduce your risk of injury. 

When preparing for a game or training, your time would be much better spent on an active warm-up which prepares your body for movements that are specific to your sport. There are a number of complex mechanisms that are at play here, but put simply, this type of active warm-up supplies more blood to your muscles so that they are ready to function and it also activates the communication pathways between your brain and muscles. 

To have maximum injury risk reduction, adequate warm-ups, a routine structured strength/exercise program and careful management of exercise load is the best approach to reduce injury rates in Football (and all other sports for that matter). Stretching will not reduce your injury risk and for more advice to avoid injuries, use the links below to book in and come have a chat with us. 

~ Nathan Andijanto, Physiotherapist

 

REFERENCES:

Nuzzo JL 2020, ‘The Case for Retiring Flexibility as a Major Component of Physical Fitness’, Sports Medicine, vol 50, no. 5, pp. 853–870.

 


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