Stretching before a game


#1

I know this is a pitching forum but this is the best place for me to turn.
My son’s 8-under team doesn’t do warm-up exercises before a game. They just have them play catch and then do fielding drills.
I know these boys are young and are always in a play mode but I think that some stretching and warm ups would be good.
What do you think?
Can you suggest a few that I can suggest to the coach or volunteer to implement before they play?
I appreciate your advice.


#2

[quote=“Keith”]My son’s 8-under team doesn’t do warm-up exercises before a game. They just have them play catch and then do fielding drills.
I know these boys are young and are always in a play mode but I think that some stretching and warm ups would be good.[/quote]

What you describe above is basically the same thing that I do with my guys before games; have them play long toss (start out 20 feet apart and take a step back every few throws) and do some slow to moderate speed wind sprints.

This is enough to get the muscles warmed up.

I believe that the value of many of the “stretching” exercises that people used to do (e.g. touching your toes) has been called in question by recent research. The same thing can be accomplished via warm up drills (e.g. jumping jacks) and with less risk of injury.


#3

There are two choices:

(1) Throw to warm up
(2) Warm up to throw

I believe in (2). “Dynamic warm-up” is the preferred choice these days. Instead of the old static stretching where the kids stand around tugging and holding their arms and legs in various positions, dynamic warm-ups involve activities that incorporate motion. They recruit the muscles and they can also incorporate aspects of balance, strength and flexibility. The result is that blood flow and the core body temperature is increased. Examples of dynamic activities include walking lunges, walking toe touches, karaokes, side strides (lunges), arm circles, etc. They can also include isometric exercises.


#4

Your ideas are helpful and make a lot of sense. I don’t pretend to know these things but I want to learn. Thank you.


#5

OK folks. This is a long one but it’s quite informative on this issue.

BioMechanics
October 2004
Stretching…out?
Some experts contend that static stretching before exercise can prevent injury. Others claim that in fact it can be harmful. And the most recent meta-analysis from the CDC did little to resolve the debate.

By: Cary Groner

Stephen B. Thacker, MD, isn’t used to getting hate mail. As director of the epidemiology program office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Thacker spends most of his time assessing research, evaluating its implications for policy, and writing the occasional paper. So he was taken aback this year when, as lead author of a meta-analysis of studies on the impact of stretching on injury risk,1 he started getting flamed.
People who advocate stretching were outraged at the paper’s conclusion that stretching appeared to be neither particularly helpful nor harmful, according to Thacker. On the other side were those who felt the CDC had gone weak in the knees and should have slammed the practice.
“At CDC we encourage physical activity,” Thacker said. “We want people to do things that have been documented to prevent injury, which includes interventions that improve balance, strength, and conditioning. We just don’t want people depending on stretching, thinking they’ll be all right.”

Healthy skepticism
Even defining stretching can be complex, because physical therapists and trainers promote different approaches depending on their own preferences, experience, and perceived needs of the athlete.

Thacker’s paper makes clear why athletes and performers should be skeptical of stretching’s alleged benefits. For example, several investigators found little evidence to support injury prevention by stretching immediately before or after events, and determined that the practice may negatively affect performance.

Other studies have found that stretching decreases muscle strength for anywhere from 10 minutes to 24 hours,6,7-a drop that increases injury risk in itself and that passive stretching adversely affects jumping ability and plantar flexion.8,9 Increased flexibility also appears to decrease running economy and peak performance.10-12

Duane Knudson, PhD, a professor of biomechanics at Chico State University in Chico, CA, has conducted extensive research into stretching and comes down on the side of the naysayers, even though several of his own studies suggest that stretching has little effect one way or the other.14-16 Knudson raised questions about the purported merits of stretching in a 1999 paper in the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, as well.17 There he pointed out the difference between static flexibility-measured by the limits of joint motion-versus dynamic flexibility, which refers to how quickly resistance (tension) increases in stretched muscles.

Regular stretching does increase static flexibility, which is important in activities such as dance or gymnastics, where performers exceed normal motion ranges. However, the gain may be due more to increased “stretch tolerance,” or the ability to be comfortable in those extended ranges, than to actual decreases in muscle stiffness, Knudson reported.

He also noted that the literature doesn’t support the notion that increases in static flexibility prevent injury. For one thing, more mobile joints tend to be less stable, and the most flexible athletes have higher injury rates. Some stretching techniques may also increase risk by stretching ligaments or creating hazardous loading patterns. And no research has documented ranges of motion related to minimized injury risk.

Although little is known about the long-term effects of stretching on dynamic flexibility, it does affect a muscle’s viscoelastic properties in the short run. What remains unclear is whether this is beneficial, neutral, or harmful. Overall, Knudson concluded, “light to moderate muscle actions of gradually increasing intensity are more appropriate than stretching as warm-up activities for most sports.” He added, however, that for those who need a range of motion beyond the norm-gymnasts, dancers, or divers-stretching during the warm-up may be necessary.

“I’m generally of the belief that unless you’re doing a sport where you need a lot of flexibility-or you’re a very inflexible person-you don’t need to stretch,” Knudson said recently. “There is just an overwhelming amount of evidence that you make yourself weaker.”

Eccentrics stand out
Other researchers have had similar results but are somewhat more equivocal in their conclusions. Joel Cramer, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Texas at Arlington, has investigated the effects of static stretching on the vastus lateralis and rectus femoris, two muscles in the quadriceps group.19,20

“We found that static stretching seems to decrease the muscle’s ability to produce force at both slow and fast velocities,” Cramer said.

According to new data he and his team presented in June at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, the acute effects of static stretching may be mode-specific, affecting isometric and concentric force production, but not eccentric force production.21 (Eccentric force would be, for example, extending the arm while holding a barbell; concentric force would be raising the barbell to the shoulder; isometric force would be holding it in place.)

We know that there is this decrease in concentric and isometric force production as a result of static stretching,” Cramer added, “but what we really want to know is why.”

The question arises due to the intriguing discovery that stretching one leg weakens both, implying that more than mechanical forces are at play. One theory is that a central nervous system mechanism is invoked.

Cramer doesn’t feel as if he has enough information to recommend sweeping changes in training methods, regardless.

“Our studies suggest that these decreases in force production are so small that this may be a nonissue in actual practice,” he said. “This fall we’re going to conduct a longer study to see if regular static stretching (versus preexercise stretching alone) may avoid some of these deleterious effects.”

Different approaches
Ian Shrier, MD, PhD, a past president of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine and currently director of the epidemiology consultation service at the Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, has earned a reputation for speaking bluntly about the issue.

Most people believe that if you stretch immediately before exercise, it prevents injury and improves your performance," Shrier said. "Both of those are wrong. Lots of studies show that stretching right before exercise decreases the amount of force you can produce and how high you can jump.”

Though it doesn’t seem to have much effect on running speed, he added.
In a 2000 article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluding that pre-exercise stretching didn’t prevent injury unless it was combined with an overall warm-up, Shrier made several key points. For one, most injuries occur during eccentric contractions rather than concentric ones-and eccentric actions typically cause damage within the normal ROM, suggesting that stretching isn’t likely to prevent such injuries. He also pointed out that stretching often increases pain tolerance, which in itself can increase injury risk for the simple reason that athletes may not be aware when they’re hurting themselves.

But Shrier acknowledged that when stretching is done as part of a comprehensive program, the situation changes.

“Where most people mess up is by lumping stretching before exercise with stretching in general,” he said. “If you stretch regularly, but not immediately before exercise, you actually increase your force, increase the amount you jump, and increase your speed. My guess is that if you stretch three or four times a week, you’ll see benefits, and I personally believe that in the future people will say that it prevents injury-though the jury’s out on that.”

Fitting the stretch to the activity
It’s illustrative of the tenor of the broader argument that Malachy McHugh, PhD, claims friendship with Shrier, then laughingly claims to disagree with most of what Shrier says, then proceeds to agree with him on several issues including this last one.

McHugh, director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, has published several studies of the effects of stretching on muscle elasticity. One found that muscle stiffness may be a risk factor for postexercise damage, but others have suggested that the relationship of flexibility to performance may depend on which sport is studied.

Nevertheless, McHugh thinks pre-exercise stretching is valuable as part of an overall warm-up. He noted that most people stretch to avoid muscle strains, and that little research has focused on its effects in sports with a high incidence of strains, such as soccer or football.

The rationale for strain prevention is that stretching makes the muscle more compliant, he said, which has implications for force production and injury prevention.

“We think a more compliant muscle has a greater functional range of motion, meaning the longer muscle should be able to produce more force,” he said. “Usually at longer muscle lengths you lose strength because there is less overlap of your cross-bridges-the force-generating part of the muscle. But if you make a muscle a little more compliant, you can get more cross-bridge overlap and generate more force at the longer length. The muscles adapt rapidly, which is why a workout that makes you sore one week doesn’t do so the next.”

McHugh also offered an intriguing theory about the nature of strength loss after an acute bout of stretching. In some sports, such as sprinting, athletes must push their muscles almost to the point of failure.

“Maximal performance and injury risk might be complementary,” he said. “The safety window might get smaller and smaller. As a result, if there’s a small decrease in the amount of force you can produce, it might have a protective effect.”

However, viewed in the context of reports from Cramer (that static stretching doesn’t reduce eccentric force production) and Shrier (that most injuries occur during eccentric contractions), McHugh may need some evidence to back this up.

Overall, McHugh believes that the activity should determine the flexibility required-and that in many cases, stretching in some form is essential.

“In a lot of sports, dance and gymnastics in particular, you have to have the range of motion to perform your task,” he said. “If dancers don’t warm up and stretch, they won’t be able to get their bodies into the positions required. Hurdlers have to have flexible hamstrings or they’re not getting over the hurdle. But for a long-distance runner, tighter hamstrings are actually beneficial. A lot of other sports fall in between, and that’s where the controversy lies.”

Another kind of performance
When it comes to activities such as dance, performance doesn’t just mean power and speed, of course; it carries connotations of artistry. And in this, consensus emerges among the factions.

“Say a ballet dancer has a vertical jump of 23 inches,” Shrier said. “If she stretches before her performance and it drops to 22 inches, nobody in the audience is going to notice. But she might feel that it is easier, less strenuous, and that she can hold her form longer. So even though she isn’t jumping as high, her performance is actually better. And though I don’t think stretching needs to be part of most warm-ups, the rest of warm-up is extremely important. I’m not saying the ballerina should go out there cold.”

Ruth Solomon agrees. Professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Solomon has been a dancer and dance trainer all of her professional life. She has published dozens of books, monographs, and journal articles about training and injury prevention, and is a member of the board of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science.

She is often shocked when she walks into dance studios to teach for the first time and sees dancers stretching on a cold floor.

“I say, ‘Please don’t do that!’ and explain that we’ll stretch in the middle and at the end of class,” she said.

According to Solomon, stretching must be an integral part of the warm-up process.

“As long as the blood is coursing through the body, the oxygen is flowing through the muscles, and the muscles are warm-then you can stretch,” she said. “But not before. If you don’t stretch and strengthen together, you’ll have a weak muscle. The strength must balance the stretch if you want to control your movements.”

Solomon explained that dancers are at risk for injury partly because dance demands such extended ranges of motion. Moreover, ballet dancers typically do exercises such as developpes and grand battements that develop their quadriceps, but may neglect the hamstrings. The resulting strength imbalance puts extra stress on the knee joint.

If the muscles are really stretched out, the ligaments may not be able to protect the joints,” she said. “So you get unstable joints, particularly knees, and you may get hyperextension and ligament tears.”

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretches are now favored in the dance community because they both strengthen and lengthen muscles, Solomon said.

A holistic view
Because dancers do get injured, however, it’s helpful to have physical therapists available who understand the injuries, how best to rehab them, and how to prevent recurrence. Rocky Bornstein, PT, was a dancer for 25 years before going into practice at Westside Dance Physical Therapy in New York.

Although Bornstein understands the necessity of isolating muscle groups to measure biomechanical forces, as in the studies described earlier, from a practical perspective she must consider her patients more holistically.

“Dancers tend to have a lot of laxity in their joints, a lot of range of motion, so in some cases strengthening may be more of an issue than stretching,” she said. “If you have a joint that is not biomechanically lined up, the muscles that move it will be working overtime to compensate. Stretching the muscle without addressing the joint won’t help.”

For Bornstein, it’s also critical to address how certain muscle groups affect the whole body. These data are typically missing from clinical trials because they are hard to measure, but perplexing results such as those reported by Knudson (where complex motions seemed to nullify the weakening effects of stretching) or by Cramer (where unilateral stretching had bilateral effects) highlight the issue’s importance.

“Muscle lengths affect other joints in the body,” Bornstein said. “People with short hamstrings who don’t stretch them are going to break down somewhere else, probably in the lower back. We stretch our pectorals not just to lengthen them, but to alleviate upper back or cervical strain. It’s allowing joints to move in the best way possible-and that’s not necessarily the joint directly attached to the muscle.”

Consensus begins to emerge when it comes to long-term stretching regimens.

“Dancers should stretch when their bodies are warm,” Bornstein said. “That would not be right before you go out to perform. For that, you want to increase your circulation, be warm and ready and viable. Afterward, when the muscle has been worked really hard, is a better time to stretch.”

As noted, Shrier supports this notion.
“Think of stretching like weight training,” he said. “If you do it regularly, you get stronger. It’s just that nobody does an exhausting workout right before they compete.”

“I think he’s exactly right,” Knudson said when told of this remark. “Studies of strength and weight training in combination with stretching show that stretching doesn’t diminish the effects. Some people who stretched did a little better.”

It’s apparent that the extent to which stretching is incorporated into warm-ups will depend on the individual and the activity, but it’s reassuring to know that professional opinions may be converging. And who knows, as time goes on, Stephen Thacker at the CDC may even get a little less hate mail.


#6

One more. Shorter this time.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: Volume 36(5) Supplement May 2004 p S136-S137
Effects of Stretching the Upper Limb on Throwing speed and Isokinetic Shoulder Torques
Noffal, Guillermo J.1; Knudson, Duane FACSM2; Brown, Lee FACSM1

Exercise is commonly preceded by warm-up and stretching routines. Although stretching has been documented to increase range of motion, recent studies have shown little effect of stretching on injury rates and adverse effects on high-force muscular performance. Strength deficits following stretching have also been found on slow isokinetic movements but not on higher velocities.

PURPOSE:
To determine the effects of static stretching of upper limb muscles on overarm throwing speed and isokinetic torque of shoulder internal rotators at two velocities (3.14 and 5.24 rad×s-1).

METHODS:
Forty subjects were randomly assigned into control and stretching groups. The experimental protocol consisted of 2 test sessions scheduled a week apart. Subjects in the experimental group performed static stretching (St) exercises to their dominant limb in one of their sessions and no stretching in the subsequent session. The order of the sessions, St or no-stretch (NSt), for the experimental subjects was randomized. Subjects in the control group did not stretch in either of their two sessions. Following warm-up and St or NSt, subjects were tested for throwing speed and concentric isokinetic torque of the shoulder internal rotation musculature at two velocities. Throwing speed was measured with a radar gun and shoulder internal rotation torques were measured with an isokinetic dynamometer. Speed and torque comparisons were made using two-way ANOVAs with repeated measures. RESULTS: Significant interactions were found for throwing speed (F = 18.96, p = .000) and isokinetic torque at 3.14 rad×s-1 (F = 5.01, p = .031), but not for isokinetic torque at 5.24 rad×s-1 (F = 4.07, p = .051).

CONCLUSION:
The results of this study indicated that static stretching produced a significant decrement in high-speed throwing performance and shoulder concentric torque at 3.14 rad×s-1. This result is in agreement with numerous studies that have shown stretching prior to engaging in a dynamic activity results in significant decreases in maximal muscular performance. These findings suggest that stretching prior to physical activities that contain multi-segment high speed muscle actions, like throwing, may have a detrimental effect on performance.


#7

FYI, if you google “dynamic warm-up”, you will get lots of hits. It will also become quickly obvious that this is popular in the track and field arena.


#8

Great information. A lot more than I expected. A big thank you to all of you.


#9

Great stuff DM59.

Thanks.


#10

[quote=“dm59”]OK folks. This is a long one but it’s quite informative on this issue.

BioMechanics
October 2004
Stretching…out?
Some experts contend that static stretching before exercise can prevent injury. Others claim that in fact it can be harmful. And the most recent meta-analysis from the CDC did little to resolve the debate.

By: Cary Groner

Stephen B. Thacker, MD, isn’t used to getting hate mail. As director of the epidemiology program office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Thacker spends most of his time assessing research, evaluating its implications for policy, and writing the occasional paper. So he was taken aback this year when, as lead author of a meta-analysis of studies on the impact of stretching on injury risk,1 he started getting flamed.
People who advocate stretching were outraged at the paper’s conclusion that stretching appeared to be neither particularly helpful nor harmful, according to Thacker. On the other side were those who felt the CDC had gone weak in the knees and should have slammed the practice.
“At CDC we encourage physical activity,” Thacker said. “We want people to do things that have been documented to prevent injury, which includes interventions that improve balance, strength, and conditioning. We just don’t want people depending on stretching, thinking they’ll be all right.”

Healthy skepticism
Even defining stretching can be complex, because physical therapists and trainers promote different approaches depending on their own preferences, experience, and perceived needs of the athlete.

Thacker’s paper makes clear why athletes and performers should be skeptical of stretching’s alleged benefits. For example, several investigators found little evidence to support injury prevention by stretching immediately before or after events, and determined that the practice may negatively affect performance.

Other studies have found that stretching decreases muscle strength for anywhere from 10 minutes to 24 hours,6,7-a drop that increases injury risk in itself and that passive stretching adversely affects jumping ability and plantar flexion.8,9 Increased flexibility also appears to decrease running economy and peak performance.10-12

Duane Knudson, PhD, a professor of biomechanics at Chico State University in Chico, CA, has conducted extensive research into stretching and comes down on the side of the naysayers, even though several of his own studies suggest that stretching has little effect one way or the other.14-16 Knudson raised questions about the purported merits of stretching in a 1999 paper in the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, as well.17 There he pointed out the difference between static flexibility-measured by the limits of joint motion-versus dynamic flexibility, which refers to how quickly resistance (tension) increases in stretched muscles.

Regular stretching does increase static flexibility, which is important in activities such as dance or gymnastics, where performers exceed normal motion ranges. However, the gain may be due more to increased “stretch tolerance,” or the ability to be comfortable in those extended ranges, than to actual decreases in muscle stiffness, Knudson reported.

He also noted that the literature doesn’t support the notion that increases in static flexibility prevent injury. For one thing, more mobile joints tend to be less stable, and the most flexible athletes have higher injury rates. Some stretching techniques may also increase risk by stretching ligaments or creating hazardous loading patterns. And no research has documented ranges of motion related to minimized injury risk.

Although little is known about the long-term effects of stretching on dynamic flexibility, it does affect a muscle’s viscoelastic properties in the short run. What remains unclear is whether this is beneficial, neutral, or harmful. Overall, Knudson concluded, “light to moderate muscle actions of gradually increasing intensity are more appropriate than stretching as warm-up activities for most sports.” He added, however, that for those who need a range of motion beyond the norm-gymnasts, dancers, or divers-stretching during the warm-up may be necessary.

“I’m generally of the belief that unless you’re doing a sport where you need a lot of flexibility-or you’re a very inflexible person-you don’t need to stretch,” Knudson said recently. “There is just an overwhelming amount of evidence that you make yourself weaker.”

Eccentrics stand out
Other researchers have had similar results but are somewhat more equivocal in their conclusions. Joel Cramer, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Texas at Arlington, has investigated the effects of static stretching on the vastus lateralis and rectus femoris, two muscles in the quadriceps group.19,20

“We found that static stretching seems to decrease the muscle’s ability to produce force at both slow and fast velocities,” Cramer said.

According to new data he and his team presented in June at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, the acute effects of static stretching may be mode-specific, affecting isometric and concentric force production, but not eccentric force production.21 (Eccentric force would be, for example, extending the arm while holding a barbell; concentric force would be raising the barbell to the shoulder; isometric force would be holding it in place.)

We know that there is this decrease in concentric and isometric force production as a result of static stretching,” Cramer added, “but what we really want to know is why.”

The question arises due to the intriguing discovery that stretching one leg weakens both, implying that more than mechanical forces are at play. One theory is that a central nervous system mechanism is invoked.

Cramer doesn’t feel as if he has enough information to recommend sweeping changes in training methods, regardless.

“Our studies suggest that these decreases in force production are so small that this may be a nonissue in actual practice,” he said. “This fall we’re going to conduct a longer study to see if regular static stretching (versus preexercise stretching alone) may avoid some of these deleterious effects.”

Different approaches
Ian Shrier, MD, PhD, a past president of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine and currently director of the epidemiology consultation service at the Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, has earned a reputation for speaking bluntly about the issue.

Most people believe that if you stretch immediately before exercise, it prevents injury and improves your performance," Shrier said. "Both of those are wrong. Lots of studies show that stretching right before exercise decreases the amount of force you can produce and how high you can jump.”

Though it doesn’t seem to have much effect on running speed, he added.
In a 2000 article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluding that pre-exercise stretching didn’t prevent injury unless it was combined with an overall warm-up, Shrier made several key points. For one, most injuries occur during eccentric contractions rather than concentric ones-and eccentric actions typically cause damage within the normal ROM, suggesting that stretching isn’t likely to prevent such injuries. He also pointed out that stretching often increases pain tolerance, which in itself can increase injury risk for the simple reason that athletes may not be aware when they’re hurting themselves.

But Shrier acknowledged that when stretching is done as part of a comprehensive program, the situation changes.

“Where most people mess up is by lumping stretching before exercise with stretching in general,” he said. “If you stretch regularly, but not immediately before exercise, you actually increase your force, increase the amount you jump, and increase your speed. My guess is that if you stretch three or four times a week, you’ll see benefits, and I personally believe that in the future people will say that it prevents injury-though the jury’s out on that.”

Fitting the stretch to the activity
It’s illustrative of the tenor of the broader argument that Malachy McHugh, PhD, claims friendship with Shrier, then laughingly claims to disagree with most of what Shrier says, then proceeds to agree with him on several issues including this last one.

McHugh, director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, has published several studies of the effects of stretching on muscle elasticity. One found that muscle stiffness may be a risk factor for postexercise damage, but others have suggested that the relationship of flexibility to performance may depend on which sport is studied.

Nevertheless, McHugh thinks pre-exercise stretching is valuable as part of an overall warm-up. He noted that most people stretch to avoid muscle strains, and that little research has focused on its effects in sports with a high incidence of strains, such as soccer or football.

The rationale for strain prevention is that stretching makes the muscle more compliant, he said, which has implications for force production and injury prevention.

“We think a more compliant muscle has a greater functional range of motion, meaning the longer muscle should be able to produce more force,” he said. “Usually at longer muscle lengths you lose strength because there is less overlap of your cross-bridges-the force-generating part of the muscle. But if you make a muscle a little more compliant, you can get more cross-bridge overlap and generate more force at the longer length. The muscles adapt rapidly, which is why a workout that makes you sore one week doesn’t do so the next.”

McHugh also offered an intriguing theory about the nature of strength loss after an acute bout of stretching. In some sports, such as sprinting, athletes must push their muscles almost to the point of failure.

“Maximal performance and injury risk might be complementary,” he said. “The safety window might get smaller and smaller. As a result, if there’s a small decrease in the amount of force you can produce, it might have a protective effect.”

However, viewed in the context of reports from Cramer (that static stretching doesn’t reduce eccentric force production) and Shrier (that most injuries occur during eccentric contractions), McHugh may need some evidence to back this up.

Overall, McHugh believes that the activity should determine the flexibility required-and that in many cases, stretching in some form is essential.

“In a lot of sports, dance and gymnastics in particular, you have to have the range of motion to perform your task,” he said. “If dancers don’t warm up and stretch, they won’t be able to get their bodies into the positions required. Hurdlers have to have flexible hamstrings or they’re not getting over the hurdle. But for a long-distance runner, tighter hamstrings are actually beneficial. A lot of other sports fall in between, and that’s where the controversy lies.”

Another kind of performance
When it comes to activities such as dance, performance doesn’t just mean power and speed, of course; it carries connotations of artistry. And in this, consensus emerges among the factions.

“Say a ballet dancer has a vertical jump of 23 inches,” Shrier said. “If she stretches before her performance and it drops to 22 inches, nobody in the audience is going to notice. But she might feel that it is easier, less strenuous, and that she can hold her form longer. So even though she isn’t jumping as high, her performance is actually better. And though I don’t think stretching needs to be part of most warm-ups, the rest of warm-up is extremely important. I’m not saying the ballerina should go out there cold.”

Ruth Solomon agrees. Professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Solomon has been a dancer and dance trainer all of her professional life. She has published dozens of books, monographs, and journal articles about training and injury prevention, and is a member of the board of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science.

She is often shocked when she walks into dance studios to teach for the first time and sees dancers stretching on a cold floor.

“I say, ‘Please don’t do that!’ and explain that we’ll stretch in the middle and at the end of class,” she said.

According to Solomon, stretching must be an integral part of the warm-up process.

“As long as the blood is coursing through the body, the oxygen is flowing through the muscles, and the muscles are warm-then you can stretch,” she said. “But not before. If you don’t stretch and strengthen together, you’ll have a weak muscle. The strength must balance the stretch if you want to control your movements.”

Solomon explained that dancers are at risk for injury partly because dance demands such extended ranges of motion. Moreover, ballet dancers typically do exercises such as developpes and grand battements that develop their quadriceps, but may neglect the hamstrings. The resulting strength imbalance puts extra stress on the knee joint.

If the muscles are really stretched out, the ligaments may not be able to protect the joints,” she said. “So you get unstable joints, particularly knees, and you may get hyperextension and ligament tears.”

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretches are now favored in the dance community because they both strengthen and lengthen muscles, Solomon said.

A holistic view
Because dancers do get injured, however, it’s helpful to have physical therapists available who understand the injuries, how best to rehab them, and how to prevent recurrence. Rocky Bornstein, PT, was a dancer for 25 years before going into practice at Westside Dance Physical Therapy in New York.

Although Bornstein understands the necessity of isolating muscle groups to measure biomechanical forces, as in the studies described earlier, from a practical perspective she must consider her patients more holistically.

“Dancers tend to have a lot of laxity in their joints, a lot of range of motion, so in some cases strengthening may be more of an issue than stretching,” she said. “If you have a joint that is not biomechanically lined up, the muscles that move it will be working overtime to compensate. Stretching the muscle without addressing the joint won’t help.”

For Bornstein, it’s also critical to address how certain muscle groups affect the whole body. These data are typically missing from clinical trials because they are hard to measure, but perplexing results such as those reported by Knudson (where complex motions seemed to nullify the weakening effects of stretching) or by Cramer (where unilateral stretching had bilateral effects) highlight the issue’s importance.

“Muscle lengths affect other joints in the body,” Bornstein said. “People with short hamstrings who don’t stretch them are going to break down somewhere else, probably in the lower back. We stretch our pectorals not just to lengthen them, but to alleviate upper back or cervical strain. It’s allowing joints to move in the best way possible-and that’s not necessarily the joint directly attached to the muscle.”

Consensus begins to emerge when it comes to long-term stretching regimens.

“Dancers should stretch when their bodies are warm,” Bornstein said. “That would not be right before you go out to perform. For that, you want to increase your circulation, be warm and ready and viable. Afterward, when the muscle has been worked really hard, is a better time to stretch.”

As noted, Shrier supports this notion.
“Think of stretching like weight training,” he said. “If you do it regularly, you get stronger. It’s just that nobody does an exhausting workout right before they compete.”

“I think he’s exactly right,” Knudson said when told of this remark. “Studies of strength and weight training in combination with stretching show that stretching doesn’t diminish the effects. Some people who stretched did a little better.”

It’s apparent that the extent to which stretching is incorporated into warm-ups will depend on the individual and the activity, but it’s reassuring to know that professional opinions may be converging. And who knows, as time goes on, Stephen Thacker at the CDC may even get a little less hate mail.[/quote]

Good stuff D.M. Do you totally discount stretching period? I hope not!


#11

[quote=“chinmusic”]Good stuff D.M. Do you totally discount stretching period? I hope not![/quote]Not at all. It just seems that recent studies are concluding that static stretching prior to a performance requiring speed and power has a dampening effect on these tissues’ ability to perform at their highest levels. These studies also tend to recommend that stretching could be seen as an on-going activity but should not be done immediately prior to a performance. One of them suggested that the dampening effect lasts for several hours (I can’t recall the actual number they used).

They do bring up the issue of joint stability being compromised due to laxity. Now that I am concerned about.

I am leaning toward the idea of a dynamic, full body warmup with a gradual introduction of the pitching motion before a game as opposed to static stretching. I’ve been doing that for about a year now with my son and the other kids I coach and they seem to be ready to pitch and haven’t complained of tightness or soreness in the shoulder.

In a motion like pitching, which utilizes the elastic properties of the rotator cuff muscles and ligaments, I’m now leary of reducing this capacity by stretching.

They note that you shouldn’t really stretch unless the activity demands a greater than normal range of motion. The question for us then becomes whether or not pitching is one of those activities. I propose that it’s not but I have no science to back that up, only very unscientific opinion. My thought on it is that, in pitching, the humerus is subjected to a range of motion that goes from neutral to an external rotation range of 90 deg. or thereabouts, and then back through neutral to approx. 90 deg or probably more of internal rotation. Help me here with those guesses folks. Is this “greater than normal”? I suggest that the answer is no but I’ll bow to the knowledge of the medical community on this one.

So, if I’m right regarding the range of motion not being excessive here, then a dynamic warmup may be the way to go.


#12

One of the problems with a lot of the prior studies is that they are highly confounded; they have people both warm up and stretch. That makes it hard to tell where the benefit is coming from.

The articles that DM59 posted suggest that the benefit comes from the warm-up exercises rather than the stretching.

I completely agree.

Chin, you talk about the idea of the thrower’s paradox (that the joints have to be loose to achieve maximum power), but I’m not convinced that that is a valid idea. For one thing, I believe that the majority (e.g. 80%) of the force in a throw is generated by the legs, hips, and torso. That (paradoxically) discounts the importance of the flexibility of the shoulder when it comes to the throwing motion.

I completely agree.

I think you are correct about this. I’m not convinced that this range of motion is insufficient to generate significant force (especially considering that most force is generated by the lower body and what happens in the arm is largely in response to those forces).


#13

One of the problems with a lot of the prior studies is that they are highly confounded; they have people both warm up and stretch. That makes it hard to tell where the benefit is coming from.

The articles that DM59 posted suggest that the benefit comes from the warm-up exercises rather than the stretching.

I completely agree.

Chin, you talk about the idea of the thrower’s paradox (that the joints have to be loose to achieve maximum power), but I’m not convinced that that is a valid idea. For one thing, I believe that the majority (e.g. 80%) of the force in a throw is generated by the legs, hips, and torso. That (paradoxically) discounts the importance of the flexibility of the shoulder when it comes to the throwing motion.

I completely agree.

I think you are correct about this. I’m not convinced that this range of motion is insufficient to generate significant force (especially considering that most force is generated by the lower body and what happens in the arm is largely in response to those forces).[/quote

In a perfect world the rotation you both mentioned may be right, however after pitchers pitch for any length of time that perfect world degenerates. The degree values in external rotation begins to become larger than the degree value of internal rotation. Once this difference reaches a certain level in degree values between the two this alone is enough to become labled as a pathology or a future problem at the very least. In other words it MUST be corerected. This happens because the posterior shoulder becomes tight and translates/forces the humerus forwards/upwards causing anterior instability as well as impingment. The answer is to stretch the posterior capsule to STOP this translation for some its a cure for others it helps the problem.

We have always loosened up before games instead of static stretching. I havent done that kind of stretching in twenty some years. that being said I do have kids stretch especially when they are training. In some cases a kids return to activity is totally dependent of reaching certain degrees of flexibility.

Chris I have NEVER said a joint has to be loose, NEVER. You are WRONG in regards to range of motion it is inherent among baseball pitchers for several reasons performance as well as health being the two most important. In other words a person can generate all the lower body power in the world but if the arm is not ready to handle it its usleless. If the arm does not have full range of motion its not reaching its full potential. Its also a recipe for potential injury, perfect balance is the answer. I am not making a case for static stretching other than when there are direct underlying reasons for doing them, rehab/regaining balance and so on. Other than that they are useless in my book.