Stretching to prevent injury
Dr. Ketan Mody
Updated: September 17, 2012 6:03AM
Fall is approaching, but there are still plenty of good days left to play sports or exercise outdoors in nice weather.
Warming up is important for everyone doing physical exercise, whether you are a fine tuned athlete or new to exercising. It ensures that the muscles are ready to go and can reduce risk of injuries like muscle strains or tendon injuries. Failing to warm-up properly is a major cause of sports injuries.
A 15- to 20-minute warm-up will increase heart rate and circulation, loosen joints and possibly help neural pathways in the brain increasing your reaction times. It can also help raise your body temperature slightly and increase blood flow to your muscles, which allows them to be more flexible.
Here are a few stretching and warm-up tips that will help keep you healthy and prevent injuries while playing sports or exercising.
Squats help loosen your hips to move more effectively, keeping the pressure off your knees. Try these simple moves in your pre-run warm-up.
Stand in a large stance position — one foot in front of the other and your back heel raised.
Squat down by bending both knees evenly, keeping the chest lifted and front foot flat on the floor (if your front heel rises, you need to bend the back knee more).
Pause before returning slowly to the start. Repeat 10 times with each foot in front.
Raise your arms (alternating) while squatting to help give you lateral movement in your hips.
When playing tennis there is a lot of movement from side to side on the court and rotation with hitting the ball. Loosening the lateral hips is key for these two movements.
Try twisting split squats:
Stand with one foot behind and across the other with your back heel raised (similar to a curtsy).
Squat down bending both knees evenly, keeping your chest lifted and the front foot flat on the floor.
Pause for five seconds in this position and then come up. You can progressively rotate as you go down and up. Repeat 10 times rotating to each side.
Football puts a lot of pressure on your hamstrings and quadriceps with short bursts of energy as one accelerates and decelerates. Neck motion is also important in preventing neck injuries.
Start by standing in a split stance position with one foot in front of the other and your back heel raised.
Reach forward by tipping from the hips and bending the front knee a little, keeping your chest lifted and back leg straight (if you feel it in your lower back, you are bending from the back and not tipping from the hips).
Hold in that position for five seconds, then return. Do 10 repetitions for each leg.
Start by sitting on the ground with one leg in front of you and one leg flexed at the knee and the foot back near your glutes.
This should give you a minimal stretch and you can get a great stretch by slowly leaning backward at your waist. Progressively stretch more. Hold each stretch for five seconds and repeat 10 times on each side.
Start by touching your chin to your chest. Look all the way back up then to the left and the right using your hand to hold the neck in that position with a slight forced stretch for five seconds.
If there is any sharp pain in your neck, notify a medical provider immediately.
The warm-up suggestions above can be useful for many other sports and can help prevent injuries as you stay active.
Dr. Ketan Mody, is a sports medicine physician on staff at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital and Elite Sports Medicine Institute in Hinsdale and Orland Park