Check out The Province’s coverage of SportMedBC’s injury prevention and performance program, SportSmart.
The importance of a warm-up is constantly drilled into those involved in sports and fitness training.
But it turns out some coaches are leading them ineffectively.
“These days people are still just doing a couple laps and then sitting in a circle and holding their stretches for 30 seconds, which is completely what you don’t want to do as a warm-up – you want to get the body moving and active,” said SportMedBC’s sports safety co-ordinator, Seb Hartell. “They’re using the wrong stretches at the wrong time.
“You want to do dynamic stretching and a dynamic warm-up.”
Noticing this habit in soccer clubs and associations across the province, SportMedBC developed SportSmart: a program on sports injury prevention and performance delivered to players, coaches and parents with a 90-minute workshop.
“I’ve noticed working with athletes – even high-level athletes in their 20s – I see a lot of people having a lot of bad sport performance habits,” said Hartell, adding that a lot of it comes from what players learned in soccer clubs.
And bad habits are tough to break, so Hartell is hoping SportSmart will help instil good habits from a young age.
“Parents and coaches actually play a big role in development and establishing these habits,” he said. “So these habits that people are learning when they’re five, six, 10, 15 years old are carrying over for many years in sports.”
The workshop goes over specific injury prevention such as ACL and ankle sprains, as well as safety procedures such as how to set up an emergency action plan for lightning or tips for environmental injuries that can occur when it’s too hot or cold.
But the biggest problem Hartell tackles is still the warm-ups, which play a big role in injury prevention.
“The whole conventional wisdom of holding your stretches for 30 seconds – to do that head to toe for every muscle or every part of the body – (with a) five-or 10-minute stretching session, by the time you’ve done that your body’s cooled down,” he said. “So to go out and start running again – your body’s not ready to do that.”
The most common injury this leads to is muscle strain – especially the hamstring.
“To get up and start sprinting and cutting, they’re not going to be as coordinated or their muscles won’t be active to perform the movements flu-idly and efficiently,” said Hartell.
He suggests running a few laps to get the body moving and the heart pumping so blood and oxygen get to the muscles, then heading into dynamic movements such as leg swings, toe touches or lunges.
The movements are performed against the player’s body weight, so the exercises are simple enough to be adapted at the youngest age levels.
Another common mistake Hartell notices among players and coaches is overall technique.
“You see people at the gym all the time – people are squatting and they’re bending their back, they’re just using improper form for easy and simple movements.”
“It’s great to learn (this) properly early on so they can continue to have these habits for the rest of their life.”