Will Stretching Help?
You see them every week on television. No matter what the sport, you will
see athletes on the ground, trying to manipulate their bodies into weird
contortions in an effort to stretch out tight muscles. What happens when
you overstretch a rubber band? It snaps!
The same thing applies to muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. Stretching
these structures in the traditional sense will put the athlete at risk
for tearing one of them. It is not a natural phenomenon to lay on the ground
and hold the body in some strange position until it hurts. The hurting
sensation means that something is going to tear if the athlete does not
stop. This passive type of stretching can lead to loose, stretched tissue.
The problem with this is that these ligaments, tendons, muscles, and joints
are made weaker by the stretching. Stretched tissue is easily injured.
Traditional passive stretching does not decrease incidence of sports injuries.
It increases them.
Increasing flexibility is one of the keys for the athlete to prevent injury.
This must be done with muscle strength control. This training involves
strengthening the muscles around the joint, which will, in turn, naturally
increase the flexibility of the antagonistic muscles. A good example of
this is an athlete who desires to increase hamstring muscle flexibility.
Traditional passive stretching would involve getting into some weird contortion
and bending over until it hurt. This usually hurts the back, as well as
the hamstrings. Nothing was accomplished toward strengthening the hamstrings
or the quadriceps muscles in the leg. Muscle strength control training
involves leg lifts, kicks that increase the strength of the quadriceps
of the leg, or leg strengthening exercises which then have the reciprocal
effect of stretching the hamstrings. The ultimate result is a longer stride
length for the runner, and stronger thigh and leg muscles, which can aid