Warm Up Reduces Sports Injury

Performing warm up exercises before competition and training sessions can help reduce injury risk and maximise performance. Warming up exercises serve to increase body temperature, preparing muscles for vigorous activity and for the actual activity itself by performing movements specific to the game. The weight of evidence is in favour of warm up decreasing the risk of injury. In practice, players should warm-up for around 20 minutes. Sweating indicates an adequate body temperature, and the effects of warm-up should last at least 20 minutes.

 

Warm-up (general phase)

General warm-up should commence with slow jogging and progress to more intense running activities (continuous or repeated), with and without footballs. Running activities should be varied, utilising alternating movements, e.g. “high knees” and “butt kicks” and frequent changes indirection (e.g. backward, forward and sideways). Light ball-handling activities may be included with running, e.g. running and bouncing with handball. Static stretching is now introduced, and combined with some low-intensity, dynamic stretching, e.g. arm and trunk circling. Stretching should be restricted to brief periods (approximately 1-2 minutes), and integrated with running and ball-handling drills. For example, players could stretch their calves and lower back, then perform 1-2, 40m run-throughs, before pausing to perform static hamstring and groin stretches, and so on. It is important to maintain increased tissue temperature throughout the warm-up, and regular alternation of stretching with movement that is more active will counter any loss of body heat. Long periods of static stretching in cold conditions are to be avoided.

 

Warm-up (specific phase)

This phase should incorporate progressively intense running and sprinting (75%-90% of maximum), combined with specific Australian football activity (e.g. jumping to mark, bending to pick up balls and longer kicking). Stretching for all major muscle groups should continue and comprise static as well as ballistic exercises, e.g. high kicks, tuck jumps; elements of body contact (partner or tackle-bag shoulder-bumps) are recommended. Finally, some time should be provided for players to stretch or perform activities of their own choice, particularly as a safeguard against previous injury. Mild sweating, and a heart rate of 140-160 beats per minute, are indicators that the player is physically ready to perform at full intensity.

 

Cool-down

Cool-down has not received as much scientific attention as warm-up, but is thought to be important in aiding recovery after exercise. In Australian football, the cool-down should immediately follow training, or the game, and should incorporate low intensity exercise and stretching. An active cool down has been shown to eliminate lactic acid much more quickly than rest . Major goals are to restore muscle extensibility and reduce the stiffness associated with maximum physical effort.

 

The cool-down following training or competition should consist of light jogging (2-5 minutes), for example, around an oval, followed by a period of stretching. The jogging segment is difficult to arrange post-game, given that after the game teams walk or jog straight off the ground. The duration of stretching may vary (5-10 minutes), depending on time and space constraints. Ideally, each stretch being should be held for 10-20 seconds and repeated twice. Important muscle groups should receive attention. These include the calf and soleus muscles, quadriceps, adductors, hamstrings and the musculature around the hip joint and lower back. It is also recommended that players continue to move around and perform stretching movements whilst under the shower.