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Published on August 10th, 2011 | by DerbyLife


FiveOnFive Sneak Peek: Stretching

Enjoy this excerpt from an excellent article by Cruisin’ B. Anthony of Steel City Derby Demons!

Here’s a mind-blowing thought: What if we didn’t stretch before practice? Or ever? No, really, I’m serious. Would our injury rate skyrocket? Would we lose our flexibility and be tight little balls of muscle with no agility on the track? Would muscle soreness make us
miserable the next day?

The surprising answer is that probably none of those things would happen and we might get a few benefits: more strength and explosive power, maybe a little endurance boost, and maybe (just maybe) a little protection from certain joint injuries.

There are a few reasons this idea isn’t mainstream yet. Stretching is tradition, in tons of sports and not just derby; and we (by which I mean everyone from athletes to coaches to the scientists who study this stuff for a living) don’t fully understand how our muscles work – what makes them perform best and how to keep them from getting injured.

One thing that’s pretty clear is this: if you measure how high you can jump, then hold your leg muscles in a couple of “static” stretches, as they’re called, for a few minutes, then do the jump test again – your second jump will be weaker. Stretching seems to have a negative effect on both strength and explosive power. Endurance is a fishier area, but a study on runners showed that they had worse endurance after static stretching. That may be because each step is a tiny explosive movement.

This weakening effect of stretching can last for 30 minutes or more – some studies say a full hour – so you could be spending more than half your practice, or most of a bout, at a disadvantage. Rather than scrapping stretching, if that seems extreme, you could use it as a training tool: stretch so you can practice on weakened muscles, but skip the stretching on game day.

The trouble with interpreting the results of stretching studies (and I waded through a huge pile of them for you, dear readers) is that they’re not done on roller derby players in the context of practices or games. They’re not even usually about team sports, but more often joggers, military recruits going through boot camp, or the ever-popular isolation studies: “Stretch this one muscle; now do this one test; OK, you’re done, go home.”

This means we have to be cautious about applying the findings to real life. Consider this your warning label: stretch, or don’t stretch, at your own risk. Use the info in this article to inform your decision, but don’t prohibit your team from stretching and tell them Cruisin’ made you do it!

Read the rest of this article, and so much more in Issue 12 of FiveOnFive. Subscribe or order now!

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