Sport is a dynamic activity consisting of movements of varying speeds, directions and intensities, often requiring the athlete to these all within a few seconds. As a result the occurrence of sport injuries is commonplace among athletes at all levels. While some sport injuries are often unavoidable, the implementation of specific strategies can decrease the risk of a sport injury considerably. More specifically these strategies are an effective warm up before a sport or event and a cool down after training and sport.
The benefit of an effective warm up exceeds just preventing sport injuries. A warm-up can also assist in optimising an athlete’s performance. The physiological benefits of a warm up include:
- Increased muscle elasticity. This improves the ability of the muscle to stretch while under a load.
- Specificity. Each sport has specific movements that are unique to that sport, so performing these movements in your warm up will be transferred into the game/race.
- Improved muscle co-ordination.
- Improved reaction time.
- Stimulates the cardiorespiratory systems. Preparing the heart and lung systems will enable better transportation of oxygen throughout your body.
- Increased body temperature.
- Energy can be produced at a faster rate.
- Helps with mental preparation, begins the process of focussing on your sporting task.
A warm up should be structured specifically for the individual athlete and furthermore for the team they might be associated with. An effective warm-up generally follows the basic principle of an aerobic exercise, dynamic flexibility exercises (stretching muscles with active movements) and specific movements that replicate the movement patterns of their sport. Typically an aerobic exercise will either be a jog/slow run, cycling (usually a stationary bike) or a rowing machine. Dynamic flexibility exercises include lunges, squats, jumps and the use of resistance bands especially for arms and shoulders. Finally the athlete should perform exercises that are specific to their sport. These include catching, throwing, directional running, change of direction running (shuttle runs), contact work or highly specific movements associated to their sport (hurdler and their leg movements). During sporting team warm ups a phase where the team is split to complete positional skills (i.e. forwards and backs) and then a team warm up is beneficial. When considering the warm-up, the athletes should aim to finish up to 10 minutes prior to the start of their event to be ensure the benefits gained from the warm-up are maintained for their event.
The cool-down after their event or training sessions is highly important in allowing the body to recover. This takes greater importance if the athlete is required to follow up the next day with another game or event. The duration cool-down should is highly dependent of the level of activity, though it’s important that their body temperature and heart rate return to their base levels.
An effective cool-down should include most of the following:
- A low intensity cardiovascular activity, usually a slow jog or fast walk.
- Static stretching.
- The use of ice baths or vest. The use of ice helps to constrict the body’s blood flow that will reduce the onset of muscle soreness, swelling and contusions that occurred. The added bonus is the body temperature is lowered to their resting value.
- Adequate hydration and nutrition. Maintaining fluid intake will help to prevent the onset of dehydration, and importantly a decrease in athletes’ upcoming performances. The use of nutrition helps to restore the body’s glucose levels quicker while the addition of protein is also essential for muscle repair.
Coastal Physiotherapy & Sport Injury Clinic is the leading Gold Coast Physio provider and will get you back after that frustrating sport injury.