Student athletes learn the correct way to warm up

By Arielle Zuaro and Amanda Malool
If a coach tells an athlete to stretch, he stretches; if the coach tells him to warm up, he does. Many athletes follow directions simply for the sake of it, without questioning the necessity or purpose of the exercise.
Some athletes continue to stretch the way they have since PAL football and recreational soccer, a method also known as static stretching. Static stretching is the normal, touch-your-toes-if-you-can-reach-them kind of warm-up.
Athletic trainer Laura Friedman said, “I see many athletes who come in and don’t know how or why they stretch, only that their coach told them to. Some are doing it totally wrong or they’re not learning properly.”
Many students are unaware of the risk they take by not preparing adequately for their sport. “Kids are more interested in sports than preparation, which results in lack of flexibility and lack of strength and support. It also leads to injuries,” said Friedman.
Doctors and orthopedists have found that on average, girls are more vulnerable to hip, back and ankle problems and are more likely to rupture their ACL, a ligament in the knee, at a rate of about five times that of boys.
In an effort to prevent severe injuries, especially ACL damage in girls, Santa Monica orthopedic surgeon Burt Mandelbaum worked to create a stretching and warm-up program to strengthen and train athlete’s bodies for safe athletic positions. This program works athletes’ abdominal muscles, as well as those that support the joints and tendons in the knees. These dynamic workouts involve the whole body moving.
“Dynamic stretching increases core temperature, activates the central nervous system, promotes coordination and awareness, increases heart rate, and most of all, improves performance,” said AWT trainer and physical education teacher Marc Fabiano. These essential exercises include shuffles, squats, jogging in place, criss-crosses and sprints. “The dynamic workout is a multi-joint movement,” said Fabiano.
A study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, and carried out by The Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation showed a 74-percent reduction in ACL tears in girls 14 through 18 who used a dynamic warm-up routine.
Senior Sarah VanBuskirk, a varsity soccer player, said, “In our dynamic warm-up, we do leg kicks front and back, open and closing the gate, walking calf stretches and lunges… It gets the muscles warmed up while giving them a nice stretch.”
At major schools like James Madison University, a dynamic-flexibility series of stretches has become the standard. These exercises, which are also the standard for our boys varsity soccer team, are shown to increase blood flow to muscles as well as to lubricate the joints.
“We always stretch while we are moving,” said senior soccer player Alex Markovits.
Stretching while moving, in exercises such as lunges and high knees, blends typical stretching and aerobics to get the body’s muscles warm.
Markovits said, “We don’t do static stretching because that is how you can overstretch and possibly hurt something.”