Stretching

Years ago a trainer and myself were discussing the real effects of stretching prior to games and workouts.  First thing to point out is the lack of knowledge about stretching due to very few scientific researches and publications at the time. Think about it ... we have just accepted the perceived ideas about stretching without a second thought.  So, as mentioned, I needed to learn more.  This article is a culmination of references and sports medicine.  When you work with sports this is an issue to discuss pertaining positions that demand explosive movements during a game. 

Beginning:
 When you stretch, the muscle and tendons are stretched.  Now, inside those muscles are muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs.  These are like sensors that help protect the muscle from becoming overstretched.  The spindle detects and responds to the changes in the muscle, like stretching, and reacts to reduce the stretching action to protect the muscle and tendons from injury.  Running along the muscle fibers, the spindle, has actin and myosin that allow the spindle to contract and stop the stretching process.  Thus preventing injury.  The Golgi is located around the muscle base and is responsible for monitoring the tension on the muscle.  When the Golgi senses excessive tension it causes a inhibition to the muscle that makes the muscle relax which protects it from overload. 

 Just reading this makes me realize the amazing machine our bodies are and the milla-second reactions going on.

 In 1990 D.C. Taylor, J.D. Dalton, A.V. Seaber, and W.E. Garrett published the following findings in the American Journal of Sports Medicine:  Two groups were studied.  One performed stretches while the other did not.  In the stretched group the amount of voluntary contraction was decreased by 28% and after 45 minutes 10%.  This study showed that maximum force needed was not available for over one hour after stretching.  As an athlete looking for an edge this is important stuff!  These findings show stretching immediately prior to game time, without the proper recovery time, can cause a strength depletion that will result in a lesser performance.  NOW, the research also found that if you do stretch prior to competition you should engage in low intensity contractions like jogging, calisthenics, or light weight lifting.  These exercises will tighten the muscle and help with recovery time from the stretching.  It would seem exhaustion could become a factor at this point.

 One question remaining is how stretching helps lessen injuries.  A researcher named Shrier did scientific studies that has clinical evidence about how stretching prior to exercise does not reduce injury.  This study shows that injuries are constant to muscle failure and not related to stretching.  Think about this .. stretching is a workout and you need recovery time just as in weight training.  As you lift you enter muscle failure and can no longer perform to the level you began, right?  The same falls true with stretching.  You expand the muscle to the point it needs recovery time and then expect it to perform at 100%.  Not going to happen!  Basically you are exercising damaged muscles when you stretch and jump into a physical competition.  This could result in injury more than the beliefs we would normally follow. 

 In conclusion you need to understand the misconceptions about stretching are becoming clear with research.  Few studies show decreased injury after stretching.  Runners got injured whether they stretched or not.  Stretching does not enhance energy absorption and injury can occur during a normal range of motion.  There is a difference between stretching and warming up.  I suggest warming up the body prior to competition rather than a hard stretch.

 For further information you can look for Shrier and Gossal's publication on the myths and truths of stretching.

 Yours in football,

  Coach Z

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