According to the National Centers for Sports Safety, 3.5 million children ages 14 and under receive medical treatment for sports-related injuries each year. Of those injuries, nearly half are overuse injuries due to incomplete bone growth or improper training and conditioning. A recent study, first published online in the British Medical Journal (2008;doi:10.11 36/bmj.a2469), states that those injuries could be significantly reduced with a comprehensive warm-up program.
The study included 1,892 female soccer players aged 13–17 who were divided into an intervention group (n = 1,055) and a control group (n = 837). The intervention group participated in a two-part warm-up program that included slow and speed running and six different sets of exercises comprising strength, balance and jumping. Each of the exercises offered progressions for increased difficulty. The intervention took place alongside the 8-month soccer season.
By the end of the study, 121 of the intervention group participants had experienced a relevant injury, compared with 143 in the control group. According to the study authors, the results offer evidence for inclusion of sound warm-up programs in youth sports to reduce injury. “Though the primary outcome of reduction in lower extremity injury did not reach significance, the risk of severe injuries, overuse injuries and injuries overall was reduced,” add the authors. “This indicates that a structured warm-up program can prevent injuries in young female football [soccer] players.”
Andrew Clark, vice president of education at Twist Conditioning Inc. and strength and conditioning coach for the Canadian national women’s soccer team, agrees. “During the dynamic warm-up is a great time to teach and then reinforce movement skills and mechanics that will teach the athlete to more effectively produce and absorb force using the muscles and joints of the body in a sequential and effective manner,” he states. Whether you work with a youth sports team or an average Joe, be sure to include Clark’s tips for creating a safe and effective warm-up routine in your program design.
According to Clark, a dynamic warm-up should
- increase the heart rate;
- increase core body temperature;
- fire up the nervous system so messages from brain to muscle transmit quickly and efficiently;
- prep the body to handle quick decelerating movement;
- increase muscle length to a point of optimal overlap for force production;
- activate the core; and
- include multidirectional movement common to the sport about to be played.
For more information on the subject, read “The Dynamic Warm-Up” by Andrew Clark and Peter Twist, MSc, in the February 2007 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.