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Athlete's tips Topic #348

Which is Better? Static or Dynamic Stretching

Although static stretching is more common, dynamic stretching has incredible benefits and has recently been associated  with improved sport performance and enhanced everyday mobility. Whether you're doing an assisted stretch or an unassisted stretch, you can choose to hold the stretch (static) or keep the stretch in motion (dynamic). When you do a stretch statically, you should generally hold the position somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds. When you stretch dynamically, you should move through the stretch 10 or 12 times.
Warning: Dynamic stretching and Bouncing are not the same. Dynamic stretches are controlled and smooth while bouncing can often damage muscles and joints.
Take the Side Lunge for example. This stretches your inner thigh. In a Static Side Lunge you would hold it for 10 to 30 seconds, whereas with a Dynamic Side Lunge you would switch back and forth between your left and right sides. If your static stretch is easy but you have trouble with the dynamic stretch, you may not be as strong as you are flexible for that exercise. If this is the case, be more aggressive with the Dynamic stretches until your strength and flexibility are on a similar level.
*For more information and plenty of exercises for optimal mobility and strength, see Full-Body Flexibility by Jay Blahnik

Top Topic #335

Power Napping

Partied too hard the night before a big game or tryout? Shame on you for bad judgement. Pulled an all nighter before the big exam or job interview? Shame on you for poor time management. Next time exercise more discipline, but for now, take a 90 minute power nap before your big event. Harvard researchers found that napping for exactly 90 minutes (no more, no less) can refresh you as much as a night's sleep. Sleeping for six to eight hours at night helps your brain retain and process visual information. If for some reason you can't get that much sleep, take the power nap. The researchers found that people who mastered a visual recognition task on a computer performed just as well after a 90 minute nap as they did following a full night's sleep. Deep REM sleep was sufficiently attained at that length. Take your 90 minute power nap about 3 hours before the important event. You'll be sharp and rested like you just had a good night's sleep. (Discovery, July, 2003)

Top Topic #334

Recovering From an Ankle Sprain

Immediate Action can reduce recover time

Ankle sprains are one of the most common sports injuries for stop and start types of running sports. The proper treatment of a sprain can help you quickly recovery and prevent future problems.
After an ankle sprain it is important to act quickly. You should immediately stop the activity and apply a compression wrap and ice in order to keep swelling to a minimum. Ice should be used for no more than fifteen minutes at a time. Leaving ice on any long can risk frost burn and do tissue damage. Keep your leg elevated to decrease the blood flow (and swelling) to the foot. Research has shown that the sooner you apply compression, ice and elevation, the sooner you will recover from your sprain. Take a hint from the pros. By getting immediate attention, they are back out there in a matter of days. If you do nothing, keep playing and then put some ice on your ankle later that night, you will end up with a sprain that can take weeks or months to heal properly. Most of the damage from a sprain comes from the swelling. Your main goal is to reduce as much swelling as possible, and to do that, every second counts.

If you play sports where an ankle sprain is likely (soccer, track, football, basketball, etc...) you should always have a first aid kit nearby. Such a kit should include compression wraps, ice packs, splints, bandages, and ibuprofen.

For a severe sprain (one you can not put weight one) you may need a visit to a physician to make sure you don't have a fracture or serious ligament or tendon damage. In general, you should avoid weight bearing as long as your have swelling. When possible, you should keep your foot elevated. Within a couple of days, your pain should decrease enough to allow some weight bearing without pain. As you are able to tolerate more weight, you can begin a walking and gentle stretching program to increase your flexibility.

Proprioception exercises or balance exercise can help you recover more quickly and should actually be preformed as part of a prevention program. Jumpsoles Proprioceptors are great for this, as are wobble boards and other imbalance exercises. Poor balance is a good predictor of future ankle sprains. After an ankle injury balance training is essential to recovery. In addition to our eyes and inner ears, there are special receptors in our joints (proprioceptors) that provide information about our position in space. By balancing on one leg you can reinforce and strengthen those receptors in the ankle. Balance on the affected leg and hold steady for 15 seconds. Continue to challenge your ankle by balancing with your eyes closed, or with your head turning from side to side. If you play soccer, balance on your sprained ankle and kick a soccer ball against a wall. If you play basketball, balance and shoot or practice bounce passes. Get creative with your exercise to match your sport.

Ankle sprains can be prevented by using appropriate equipment for your sport. However, sport-specific shoes and protective gear are just the start. To avoid ankle sprains, you need to strengthen your ankle joints with various tools. Resources are provided below.

Info from http:/

Top Topic #333

The Dreaded Shin Splints

If you are a dedicated athlete, chances are you've had some experience with shin pain, or know people that have. Shin Splints account for 10% to 15% of all injuries due to running exercises, and 60% of pain in the lower legs. If you've had them, you know how much pain and discomfort occurs - sometimes to the point where you can hardly run or jump.

There are various treatments for Shin Splints, more which are covered here:
In this topic we will concentrate on exercises you can do to relieve your shin splints and strengthen the muscles you need to prevent them from recurring.


1. Anterior Tibialis Strengthening Exercise

Support yourself against the wall and flex your feet upward, emphasizing on your endurance. If you have a history of shin splints you should do this regularly during the season or when you exercise.

2. Theraband Resistance Exercise

While seated, stretch your anterior and posterior muscles of the lower leg. Do backward and forward motions, as well as side to side and rotations. Try to stretch as far as far as possible.

3. Proprioceptive Strengthening Exercises

Jumpsoles/Proprioceptor exercises can strengthen all the muscles of the lower leg, from your ankles, feet and toes to your knees. Rotation drills (left) as well as Inside/Outside Extending (right) drills can stretch and strengthen your anterior and posterior tibialis to not only recover from shin splints, but strengthen and prevent them from occuring again.



ACL Injury Prevention - Plyometrics (Part 2 of a 2 part series)

These exercises are explosive and help to build, power, strength and speed. The most important element when considering performance technique is the landing. It must be soft! When you land from a jump, you want to softly accept your weight on the balls of your feet slowly rolling back to the heel with a bent knee and a straight hip. These exercises are basic, however, it is critical to perform them correctly. Please take the time to ensure safe and correct completion of these exercises.

  1. Lateral Hops over Cone (20 reps)
    Elapsed Time:
    9.5 - 10 min

    Purpose: Increase power/strength emphasizing neuromuscular control.

    Instruction: Stand with a 6" cone to your left. Hop to the left over the cone softly landing on the balls of your feet land bending at the knee. Repeat this exercise hopping to the right.

  2. Forward/Backward Hops over cone (20 reps)
    Elapsed Time:
    10 - 10.5 min

    Purpose: Increase power/strength emphasizing neuromuscular control.

    Instruction: Hop over the cone/ball softly landing on the balls of your feet and bending at the knee. Now, hop backwards over the ball using the same landing technique. Be careful not to snap your knee back to straighten it. You want to maintain a slight bend to the knee. Repeat for 20 reps.

  3. Single Leg hops over cone (20 reps)
    Elapsed Time:
    10.5 - 11 min

    Purpose: Increase power/strength emphasizing neuromuscular control.

    Instruction: Hop over the cone/ball landing on the ball of your foot bending at the knee. Now, hop backwards over the ball using the same landing technique. Be careful not to snap your knee back to straighten it. You want to maintain a slight bend to the knee. Repeat for 20 reps. Now, stand on the left leg and repeat the exercise. Increase the number of repetitions as needed.

  4. Vertical Jumps with headers (20 reps)
    Elapsed Time:
    11 - 11.5 min

    Purpose: Increase height of vertical jump.

    Instruction: Stand forward with hands at your side. Slightly bend the knees and push off jumping straight up. Remember the proper landing technique; accept the weight on the ball of your foot with a slight bend to the knee. Repeat 20 times and switch sides.

  5. Scissors Jump (20 reps)
    Elapsed Time:
    11.5 - 12 min

    Purpose: Increase power and strength of vertical jump.

    Instruction: Lunge forward leading with your right leg. Keep your knee over your ankle. Now, push off with your right foot and propel your left leg forward into a lunge position. Be sure your knee does not cave in or out. It should be stable and directly over the ankle. Remember the proper landing technique; accept the weight on the ball of your foot with a slight bend to the knee. Repeat 20 times.

    For more information about the PEP (Prevent injury, Enhance Performance) program by the Santa Monica ACL Prevention Project go to

Top Topic #365
10 Keys to Calming Your Pregame Jitters

Do your palms get sweaty before a game? Do you get butterflies in your stomach? Is it hard to focus? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you may have had pre-game jitters. 


Here are 4 things you should do before a game:


1. Establish a routine. The game day routine starts when you wake up, and ends when the buzzer or whistle goes off. You should determine how many hours before the game you need to get up to accomplish all of the steps in your routine. A few of the components in the routine are calorie intake, fluids, travel time to game location, warm-up, stretching, equipment check, mental exercises, etc.... Some components will vary depending upon the type and length of the game, but the basic framework will remain constant. Every game is different, but developing a consistent routine will provide a familiar base from which to compete in your game. It will also give you confidence that you know you are ready to perform


2. Mental exercises. You will often see top athletes close their eyes and engage in seemingly strange behavior, appearing either catatonic or moving to some unseen rhythm. The latter is especially evident in downhill skiers who sway and gyrate. They are rehearsing all the elements required in the race. This mental imagery helps you focus and plan each stage of your race. This takes the over-energized concept of ?PLAY HARD, WIN?, and changes it into a series of steps, calmly planned and executed. Sometimes music (via headphones) is useful but it must not be distracting nor result in the wrong mood.


3. Breathing exercises and progressive muscular relaxation are other techniques that can alter your level of SNS activation and reduce unwanted muscular tension.


4. Monitor your body. Look for, and pay attention to, the signals your body provides. This will give you feedback as to the state of your SNS. Pulse rate, respiration rate, sweat rate, tremor and other clues give you a way to see where you are, and how effective your modulating techniques are.


6 things to avoid before a game: 

  1. Avoid fiber rich foods in the two days leading up to a game. The extra ?bulk? in the intestines means the cramping and diarrhea will be worse.
  2. Avoid anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., ibuprofen) since these alter prostagladin synthesis and can result in intestinal cramps and diarrhea.  Also avoid diphenhydramine and other over-the-counter antihistamines because of their sedating effects..
  3. Avoid protein/ fat rich foods for breakfast on game day.
  4. Be careful of caffeine. Some athletes use caffeine as a performance aid, but too much can definitely cause intestinal cramping and diarrhea, and contribute to nervousness and rapid pulse.
  5. Stay away from pseudoephedrine and other stimulants. Not only are these decongestants banned, but they may have considerable neurological (e.g., anxiety) and cardiovascular (e.g., rapid pulse) side effects.
  6. Avoid nicotine.

Top Topic #367
Are You Overtraining?
When decreasing your training improves performance

Athletes often feel compelled to exercise longer and harder in order to improve. A problem arises, however, when you are exercising beyond what your body tell you is acceptable, and you still feel as though you need to do more. Performance enhancement requires a balance between overload and recovery. Too much overload and/or too little rest results in overtraining. This causes a state of physical, chemical and mental imbalance.
Recognizing Potential Problems
The first sign of overtraining is a general feeling of staleness in the athlete, and includes:
  • decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • muscle pain / body aches (this includes prolonged soreness and lack of energy)
  • moody, easily irritated, decreased or disturbed sleep
  • depression loss of competitive desire
  • loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • decreased appetite
  • increased incidence of injuries.
It is not easy to look at a training schedule and predict overtraining. One consideration is the length of the schedule and the variety of training. There are some successful programs that, if maintained too long would end in overtraining. Another component of overtraining is a lack of variety in routines. Training must be altered at regular intervals. Mainly because the body (and muscles) adapt to training, but also due to pyschological boredom and staleness.
Are you overtraining?
If you are asking the question, it's very possible you may be. To know for sure, you need to be completely objective in your assessment. Consider using a heart monitor to measure your progress. Evaluate your aerobic heart rate at a specific exercise intensity / speed throughout your training and write it down. If your pace starts to slow down, your resting heart rate starts to increase and you experience the above symptoms, it may be the first sign that you are heading into the downward spiral of overtraining.
Keeping tabs on your morning heart rate is one of the best ways to determine your recovery. But beware: In some people, overtraining is accompanied by a lowering of the heart rate. Keep a training log, and include an assessment of how you feel while training. Pay attention to your body, as it can provide subtle clues indicating that you're not resting enough: fatigue, aches and twinges, sleep irregularity, changes in appetite, especially cravings for sugar or caffeine. Make notes about any of these hints in your diary.
Get someone with an objective eye to assist you in your training or in evaluating your schedule. Or if you know someone you have confidence in, use him/her as a coach. Get input from your spouse or significant other. The best way to handle overtraining is to avoid it. Prevention is the ideal approach.
Treating Overtraining Syndrome
The treatment for the overtraining syndrome is rest. The longer the overtraining has occurred, the more rest is required. Therefore, early detection is very important. If the overtraining has only occurred for a short period of time (e.g., 3 - 4 weeks) then interrupting training for 3 - 5 days is usually sufficient rest. After this, workouts can be resumed on an alternate day basis. The intensity of the training can be maintained but the total volume must be lower. It is important that the factors that lead to overtraining be identified and corrected. Otherwise, the overtraining syndrome is likely to recur. The alternate day recovery period is continued for a few weeks and then an increase in volume is permitted. In more severe cases, the training program may have to be interrupted for weeks, and it may take months to recover. An alternate form of exercise can be substituted to help prevent the exercise withdrawal syndrome.
Elizabeth Quinn,

Top Topic #374
Ankle Pain? How to Treat it and/or How to Make Sure it Never Happens to You

Achilles tendinitis is a painful and debilitating injury. It's typically due to overuse, so you want to rest until the pain subsides. That can take 2-3 wks.
Why does it happen? A high degree of rear-foot pronation and weak ankle-muscle strength increases your risk for Achilles tendinitis. Weakness of the gastrocnemius, soleus and anterior tibialis, and specifically insufficient eccentric strength, will result in poor control of the dorsiflexion and pronation during the foot-down and cushioning phases of running. If these movements are not controlled, particularly the velocity of pronation, then this can cause an excessive whipping of the Achilles tendon as the foot strikes the ground and the knee rolls forward over the foot, which may result in injury.
Your goal: Develop sufficient strength in the ankle muscles and use specific exercises to control excessive pronation of the rear foot.
Closed chain one legged exercises are some of the best ways to rehab weak ankles. Here are a couple exercises:
  • One legged Half knee bends on a Wobble board
With these exercises, we've had athletes come down on other people's feet and not sprain their ankle. Preventative measures can help avoid game / season ending injuries to your ankles.

Top Topic #376
What is Your Body Mass Index?

When it comes to tracking weight loss, most of us rely on the scale to tell us whether we've lost or gained weight. But, as people are fast learning, this isn't the best way to keep track of your weight. A scale measures everything including muscle, fat, bones, and what you ate or drank that day. It doesn't tell you what you really need to know: how much fat do you have?


The BMI, or Body Mass Index, is one way to measure this. BMI takes into account your weight and height, giving you a number that you compare with a BMI chart. It doesn't give you a body fat percentage, but indicates whether you're obese or overweight. For example, if your BMI is 22, that doesn't mean your body fat is 22%.


This calculation isn't completely accurate, as it doesn't take into account age or sex. A muscular person may have a high BMI that doesn't reflect actual body composition. However, this can help you compare with the average person.


Body Mass Index can be calculated using pounds and inches with this equation:

BMI = (             Weight in Pounds             
(Height in inches) x (Height in inches)
) x 703

For example, a person who weighs 220 pounds and is 6 feet 3 inches tall has a BMI of 27.5.

(             220 lbs.            
(75 inches) x (75 inches)
) x 703 = 27.5
Now that you calculated your BMI, compare it on the chart:
BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 ? 24.9 Normal
25.0 ? 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

So you have calculated your BMI and found which weight category your BMI matches.  What does this all mean?

BMI is not the only indicator of health risk.
BMI is just one of the many factors related to developing a chronic disease (such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes). Other factors that may be important to look at when assessing your risk for chronic disease include:
  • Diet
  • Physical Activity
  • Waist Circumference
  • Blood Pressure
  • Blood Sugar Level
  • Cholesterol Level
  • Family History of disease

All persons who are obese or overweight should try not to gain additional weight. In addition, those who are obese or who are overweight with other risk factors should consider losing weight. A complete health assessment by a physician is the best way to decide the right steps for you.


Whatever your BMI, talk to your doctor to see if you are at an increased risk for disease and if you should lose weight. Even a small weight loss (just 10% of your current weight) may help to lower the risk of disease.


Physical activity and good nutrition are key factors in leading a healthy lifestyle and reducing risk for disease.

info from

Top Topic #383

When is it Safe to Play Sports After an Injury?

Football season has begun, and school is back in session, meaning your bodies are in for another long season. Unfortunately this also means injuries may happen, and we need to know how to prevent it, and afterwards, when to come back.
Knowing when to return is not always easy because each athlete, and each injury, is unique. Returning too soon can increase your risk of re-injury or developing a chronic problem that will lead to a longer recovery. Waiting too long, however, can lead to unnecessary de-conditioning.
One thing that can improve your recovery from an injury is a high level of conditioning prior to injury. Not only will being in great shape reduce your risk of injury and lessen the severity of an injury, but it also has been shown to reduce recovery time.

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine offers the following tips to speed your recovery time:

  • Maintain year round balanced physical conditioning
  • Make sure that injuries are recognized early and treated promptly.
  • Participate in a full functional rehabilitation program.
  • Stay fit while injured and work out your other muscles. 
  • Keep a positive, upbeat attitude.
    Phases of Recovery
    Allow yourself time to heal. During the acute recovery phase you should be following the R.I.C.E. principles: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, along with limited activity. Depending on the type and severity of your injury, treatment may also include a visit to a physician, various taping, bracing, or physical therapy treatments.
    While you allow your injured body part to heal, you should try to maintain overall conditioning if possible. Try alternate forms of training such as water running, swimming, cycling, rowing or weight training of the non-injured parts.

    Regaining range of motion and strength should be begun as tolerated or as directed by your physican or trainer. Use discomfort as a guide and avoid movements that cause pain. Once muscle strength and flexibility return you can slowly get back into your sport, working at about 50 to 70 percent max capacity for a few weeks. During this re-entry phase, functional drills for balance, agility, and speed can be added as tolerated.

    The following guidelines can help you determine if it's safe for you to start playing your sport again.

    • You are pain free
    • You have full range of motion (compare the injured part with the uninjured opposite side)
    • You have full or close to full (90 percent) strength (again, compare with the uninjured side)
    • You have no swelling
    • For lower body injuries: you can perform full weight bearing on injured hips, knees, and ankles without limping
    • For upper body injuries: you can perform throwing movements with proper form and no pain

    Keep in mind that even when you feel 100 percent you may have deficits in strenght, joint stability, flexibility or skill. Take extra care with the injured part for several months.

    *These are only guidelines and you should follow your physician's advice regarding return to play.

    information from E. Quinn,


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