Tricks and Trends to Keep You Playing

To this day I reflect on my Anatomy 400 professor, Dr Robert Steadward who showed us in the cadaver lab how each human body is unique. When we relate this to injury prevention with the plethora of sports available to us in the summer, there are endless options but what can be most helpful are some tricks of the trade and trends in sports medicine that could keep us playing longer and/or harder during the warmer seasons. Here are three favourites:

Which stretching is best? Dynamic, active, static, PNF, passive or ballistic? This is a very debatable topic. Rather than getting into the details of each, consider the most familiar and time-honoured: static/passive stretching. As a general rule of thumb, if you want to increase your flexibility you need to do it frequently; aim for 5-7 days a week. Each stretch should be done 2-3 times. Remember, this is to increase flexibility, not all muscle groups will need this frequency – focus on tight ones. To maintain flexibility and keep those gains, you should aim to stretch whole body 2-3 days per week. Keep in mind that it is possible to injure yourself through stretching! No matter if your muscles are “cold or warm,” a safe perceived intensity is in the 4-5/10 range holding for between 30 and 60 seconds. If you reach 45 to 60 seconds and your intensity of stretch has not decreased, you may in fact be stretching too hard. Try a lighter perceived intensity.

Another thing to think about is location of the stretch. For example, if we relate this to the lower body, and you want the best glute (buttock) stretch, you must first figure out where the glute stretch should be felt. Do not spend time stretching the glute if you cannot get past a pinch in the front of your hip or a strong sensation in your groin. Try a different stretch or alter the angle/body position to achieve this. It is not advised to put excessive compression or strain on joints or nerves.

Recovery Tools
How many of the following recovery tools have you tried: foam roller, vibrating foam roller, roller stick, massage ball, hockey ball, lacrosse ball, compression tights, compression sleeves, compression socks, massage gun, air compression boots, electric stim unit, inversion table, ice bath, hot tub, epsom salt bath, biking, swimming, running, walking, stretching, PNF stretching, electrolyte drinks, massage therapy, kinesiology taping, BEMER units…? There are endless options available, some come with crazy price tags. Bottom line is you need to see what you should and can make time for, and what is most effective for your body.

Have you been told or do you think that you will get weaker from bracing a joint such as a knee or ankle? Weaker is not really the appropriate word and bracing is not necessarily immobilizing. Muscle loss, atrophy or loss of balance/proprioception are more appropriate terms, and this is still arguable. In general, bracing does not cause atrophy; lack of movement/being sedentary is what causes this. If you are able to exercise and are getting pain relief (during and after) while wearing a brace this is a good thing. Have a sport medicine professional such as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Kinesiologist, Athletic Therapist, Physiotherapist etc. prescribe safe and specific exercises for the braced joint and good things can happen. You may even be able to stop using the brace! Sometimes using a simple sleeve type brace can improve “proprioception” and help reduce pain/override the brain and allow you to move. Other times it takes a custom, rigid brace to support the joint or “unload” the cartilage, meniscus or osteoarthritic compartment of the knee to give you a result. If you knew a brace could help reduce pain, slow joint degeneration or avoid the need for surgery, would you invest?

At the end of the day, if we can have fun, play as hard as we want and not end up with an acute or chronic injury we are winning! Motion is medicine.

Heather Lewis is a Certified Athletic Therapist and has owned/operated Fernie Athletic Therapy and Rehabilitation since 2006. Athletic Therapy is for Athletes and for everyone! She and her colleague Kayla Boger are proud musculoskeletal/orthopedic nerds.  Like many, they are always learning and fascinated by the human body.