Unfortunately, injuries are part of sports. However, there are measures that can be taken by athletes, coaches and trainers to prevent injuries from occurring.
The lower body is the most common site of preventable injuries. In high school sports, roughly 800,000 lower-body injuries occur per year in America. Of those injuries, especially in sports that require explosive bursts of speed and power (i.e. soccer), it was predicted that nearly three-quarters of those injuries were preventable.
A reason why preventable injuries are occurring is due to an ineffective warm-up routine. Effective warm-up routines are designed to increase musculotendinous elasticity and the recruitment of muscle fibres. However, if a protocol is not performed as designed, there is an imbalance between elasticity and rigidity. Thus, increasing the likelihood of injury at the musculotendinous junction – a common site of failure.
Results from recent injury prevention programs have found that warm-ups that include dynamic drills, mobility and core strengthening exercises significantly reduce injury. One such program is the FIFA 11+ initiative which has been found to significantly reduce lower extremity injuries by up to 71% in athletes aged 13 to 25.
Now, the ‘idea’ of a warm-up is nothing new. Warm-ups have been implemented pretty much from the beginning of sport. However, there is a difference between a good warm-up and a bad warm-up.
Here are five characteristics of a good warm-up.
They are active.
When it comes to a good warm-up, there should be little to no standing around. This does not mean athletes are doing explosive movements or running at breakneck speeds. However, there should be constant movement with a progression towards ‘game-like’ efforts.
They are dynamic.
There is a lot of information in the sports world concerning dynamic movements or stretches versus static stretches. Dynamic drills are significantly more effective than static drills when it comes to the purposes of a warm-up. However, static stretches and drills may have their place depending on the drill, stretch or needs of the athletes.
They should be as sport-specific as possible.
When it comes to warming up the body, there are general drills or exercises used to get the body warm. However, as you progress through the drills, the exercises should become more sport-specific. Additionally, it is encouraged for sports like hockey or swimming to do a dryland warm-up and another warm-up in the medium of the sport (i.e. on ice or in water).
They should not cause a build-up of fatigue.
Prior to a game, the warm-up should be designed to get the body warm. Avoiding a build-up of fatigue doesn’t mean avoiding a progression to explosive efforts, but it should avoid allowing the warm-up to become a mini-workout. This is where it becomes important for coaches to know the ability of their athletes.