Participating in some sort of physical activity or a sport is something everyone does in their life at one time or another. How each person prepares to participate in their sport can vary from person to person. In order to compete in a sport to one’s maximum ability, stretching before playing is a necessity. Stretching before playing sports helps athletes prevent minor and major injuries such as muscle pulls, strains and tears. Breathing between as well as how long each stretched position is held is extremely important when stretching before playing sports. Although stretching is sometimes overlooked, stretching provides athletes with complete muscle control and flexibility in order to perform at peak performance.
Stretching can help prevent Injuries which are something that all athletes have to endure at one time or another. Whether it be strained muscles, torn ligaments, or even fractured or broken bones, injuries are a piece to the puzzle of playing sports. An common injury in athletes is overuse injury. Overuse injuries can occur when repetitive stress is applied to either a “muscle, tendon or bone which results in microtraumatic damage when adequate time heal or repair has not been alloted” (Kriz, 2011, page 134). Although some athletes are more prone to injury than others, many exercises can be done to help prevent the likelihood of an injury occurring. One of these exercises would include DPP (dynamic pre-participation stretching drills). DPP drills are stretching exercises that are conducted prior to exercise to prepare the joints for movement and muscles for their optimal activation. These dynamic stretches involve movement of the body which help the blood circulate. DPP drills are supposed to “be performed between pre-participation stretching and actual performance,” to avoid lingering stretch-induced stretch loss (Bartholdy, 2016, para.19). Not only do these stretches help blood flow in the body and muscle temperature, but they also allow increased endurance, improved coordination,as well as improved balance, and improvements in mental preparedness. Overall, performing these stretches before sporting events is beneficial to the athletes because they help the possibility of an injury from occurring.
The amount of time to stretch has to be considered to help athletes benefit from stretching. . However, researchers finally have data to back up the “perfect” amount of time to hold a stretch. In an experiment where during their students school PE class, 37 school children, specifically 18 boys and 19 girls, had the flexibility of their both of their hamstrings measured. The measurements were taken during the beginning of week 0 of the experiment, in the middle “(week 18)” and at the end, “(week 34)”(Mayorga-Vega, 2017).The stretching exercises that the students performed included flexing their bodies at the hip, as well as the “sit and reach stretch” where the stretching participant sits on the floor and attempt Once the position the endpoint of the range of motion was reached, the participants held it for anotts to touch their toes and hold the position. Both of these stretches help the flexibility of the hamstring muscle.her “20 seconds” (Mayorga-Vega, 2017). Kriz’s (2011) research found that although the stretching program was conducted only once per week, the students hamstring flexibility increased to a large extent. The research also showed that at least four to five 20-second stretches should be applied to allow pain tolerance to be decreased” (Kriz, 2011, para. 10). The research showed that holding a stretch for anything less than 20 seconds will not make a significant difference in lengthening muscle fibers and tissue. If a stretch is held for more than 30 seconds, this increases the risk of an injury occurring. Stretching for too long can hurt the body, and not stretching enough could possibly not benefit the body.
Breathing between sets while stretching is a very important component to understanding and maximizing to the full extent, the effect stretching has on the human body before playing sports. According to Deise Kent, a massage therapist, the proper breathing technique is to “Take deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. You should move into your stretch on the exhale and hold the stretch while you inhale” (Personal Communication). Breathing while you stretch is important because it allows the human body, as well as the mind, to be relaxed while stretching causing the muscles being worked to be more focused on. Having the proper breathing technique while stretching is also important because it allows the stretch being conducted to reach its maximum range of motion and the maximum time. If the sports athletes breathing is too fast or too slow, then he or she could possibly limit the amount of time the stretch is able to be held, or the length of how far the participant is able to reach while stretching.
Stretching before playing sports is beneficial to athletes and their performance because it helps strengthen and loosen the muscles which helps prevent injury. This allows them to be more comfortable to use as the muscles become more flexible. This is “because stretching strengthens the muscles and encourages proper alignment, the human body posture will be less slouched and more vertical and aligned” (Zemadanis,2015, p.104). Stretching over time gives the athletes bodies time to shift into the proper areas, which helps the health of the body. In order for an athlete to perform at the highest level, he or she’s body must be properly aligned, created the maximum possibility of performing at he or she’s best. If the body is sore or has misplaced pieces, the athlete could quite possibly be sore, and not able to fully perform a task or exercise due to the range of motion allotted. This would cause the athlete pain, therefore hindering the athletes capability of performing a specific task at the highest level possible. Stretching before playing sports also has “An action on the viscoelastic properties of muscles (reduction in the stiffness or possible tensions, as well as an improvement in the relaxation)”(Gremion, 2015). The muscles of the athlete would be much less stiff, if any stiff at all. This would cause the athlete body to feel more relaxed and perform at a higher level then before. On the other hand, if an athletes muscles feel stiff, hard or uncomfortable, then the athlete may even be thinking about his or her discomfort, more than the actual sporting event that is taking place. This would cause distractions and the athlete would begin to perform at a lower level then before. In order for an sports player to perform at the highest level possible, he or she must be focused to their highest capacity. This is not possible if their muscles are stiff and cold, causing pain and distraction towards them.
Stretching properly can help reduce mental stress which aids athletes in performing at the highest level they are capable of. There are two types of major stress. Mental stress as well as physical stress. Performing some sort of physical activity that involves physical stress on the body such as stretching and yoga, can help relieve mental stress. “Stretching improves elasticity and mobility, which allows for relaxed movement and less tension”(Kriz, 2011, pg. 207). Tension in the muscles can cause the muscles to become stiff and is the source of muscle pulls and tears. As the muscles become inflexible and fim, the probability of an injury occurring is increased. In most cases, if stretching is done properly, then muscle strains and tears should not be much of a concern to one. Mental stress is something that no one likes to have. Stress can be described as the way your body responds to a particular type of need or demand. For one to become stressed, he or she most likely has been affected by experiences. As people begin to feel stressed out by an event or situation around them, their bodies react to this by “releasing chemicals into the blood which restricts blood flow” which can cause tension their muscles as well as their lower back. (Notarnicola, 2017, pg. 584) Stretching stimulates receptors in the nervous system that decrease the production of stress hormones. The secret is to isolate the muscles that store tension by stretching the lower back, shoulders, and neck.
Although stretching before participating in sports has its benefits, it also can be harmful if not performed properly. However, if done in an incorrect manner, stretching can harm, rather than help the body. Specifically, if dynamic stretches, or stretches where there are progressive movements of muscle that are not held in the end position, such as torso twists, walking lunges, or hamstring stretches are done too quickly, then the possible risk of injury is increased. In an experiment where forty participants conducted calf muscle stretches for 4 weeks, the results showed that “four of the forty participants who stretched too long, had increased calf muscle pain”(Bartholdy, 2016, p.699). Stretching for a longer period of time than the recommended time can cause already current pain to be increased significantly. Overtime, this would put much wear and tear on the human body causing the body to become more weak and more vulnerable to injuries and recurring injuries. Performing improper stretches can harm the human body more than people think. Performing these stretches improperly can actually weaken the bodies muscles, which can cause physical stress on the body. Muscle tightness is due to an imbalance. For instance, according to a study conducted at the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Texas compared how muscles changed depending on whether or not they were stretched in the same person. They found that stretching even just one muscle can also impair another muscle that was not stretched, possibly through a “central nervous system inhibitory mechanism” (Bartholdy, 2016, p.694). “That means that stretching (and weakening) a muscle in your left leg could weaken a muscle in your right leg that you didn’t even stretch” (Johnson, 2016) This means that if one muscle is stretched to an extent, and another is left out of being stretched, then that left out muscle can be impaired, or even weaker than the other. This would cause the muscle to over time be much weaker and more of a likelihood to have an injury occur as it cannot endure too much stress. Although stretching one muscle and not another is not beneficial, this issue can be solved very easily. Both muscles need to be stretched. For instance, if a person is stretching their hamstrings, stretch both. Not just one. Stretching both muscles is a very easy way of avoiding injuries and helping an athlete perform at a higher level. In the end, most people don’t agree with the fact that stretching causes muscle weakness because they don’t feel weak after stretching. This is because most people feel the tight part of muscle imbalance and usually don’t feel the muscle weakness until it starts to affect a joint or if it is severe enough to reduce the muscles power. So someone may feel their hamstring to be tight and the need to stretch it, but usually the weakness is in the antagonist muscle. An antagonist muscle is a muscle that opposes the action of another.
Everyone loves participating in sports, but if someone wants to participate in the long-run, then stretching is a necessity. Stretching before playing sports helps prevent all types of injuries such as muscle pulls, strains and tears. How one breathes between sets, as well as how long each stretched position is held is very important when stretching before playing sports. Stretching can also help the mental part of the human body as it allows mental stress through one’s mind to be decreased as it relaxes the muscles physically and mentally. Even though stretching can possibly have negative results, that is only due to improper stretching practices. This would include stretching for too long, over stretching particular muscle, and not stretching a near muscle the same. All of the “negative” effects of stretching can be changed very easily if the stretches are performed properly, and equally. Stretching before any physical activity is a necessity for athletes to perform at a high level.