Updated: Dec 18, 2019
Warmup prior to sport is one of the most under utilised tools in the fight against sporting injuries. Many of us grew up in a world where sport was primarily for fun, we played numerous sports all lasting a few months of the year and the majority of us never did this with the consideration of higher goals or a professional career in the future. We were strong, active, healthy, largely injury free kids.
The sporting landscape has changed and not necessarily for the better. In a society with a growing obesity epidemic our sporting participation rates for children, adolescents and young adults are lower than ever and continuing to drop. Alongside this the number of moderate to severe injuries in our children and adolescents is at an all time high and continuing to rise.
Across the ditch in Australia they are suffering from what could be considered an ACL rupture “epidemic”. New research has revealed that Australia has the highest rates of ACL reconstructions in the world (200,000 reconstructions at a cost of >$140 million) and they are being reported at younger ages with some as young as seven or eight. It is not clear yet what is causing these growing rates of ACL rupture but there is speculation that a combination of a lack of “free play “and early sports specialisation could be to blame.
Rules and restrictions on climbing trees, playing every day lunchtime school games and too much time spent on devices is ensuring our children are functionally weaker than ever before. We see this on a daily basis with an increase in sporting injuries and at the other end of the spectrum an increase in back and neck pain as a result of a largely sedentary lifestyle from younger and younger ages.
Sports are now often year round, multiple levels of a sport are played by athletes concurrently with the load of training and competing often being higher in a week than many of our professional and semi-professional athletes achieve. YET all of this is occurring on a growing skeleton. This along with the reduction in movement control and strength is creating the “perfect storm” when it comes to injuries in adolescence.
Having an impact in this landscape is challenging and at times frustrating but is a hugely rewarding area if changes can be made. We cannot have the next generation of children having “40 year old knees” by the time they are 10 and we cannot afford to have a generation of children ceasing to play sport as a result of injury as this has significant detrimental health consequences.
Warmups prior to sport are almost always completed especially in team sports. Yet historically these largely consist of a jog and some static stretching which is what we completed 30 years ago. Research and time has moved on but education to the public still lacks in this area. Static stretching is not effective in the reduction of injuries and can potentially be detrimental prior to sport due to reducing power production of the involved muscle after being stretched. It has NO place in a warmup prior to sport unless it is individualised and specifically targeted to the athletes injury and performance history and the sport .
Warmups MUST be multifactorial, sport specific and include strengthening, balance and agility exercises. These will not only help prepare our children for the sport they are about to play but reduce their risk of injury and assist in enhancing their performance. Faster, stronger players who are not injured regularly will always be an asset to a team.
Effective warmups have been shown in research to prevent major injuries by up to 50% and all injuries by up to 30%. Research also shows us that teams that have the least injuries win the most and athletes that can complete the majority of their planned training will have a much higher chance of achieving their performance goals. IT IS TIME FOR CHANGE! We must implement appropriate warmups across all sports from pre puberty – some would say it is negligent of us if we don’t!
See links below for examples of sport specific warmups for netball, rugby & football or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information