In keeping with MMI's philosophy of service to the community and prevention of injury through patient education, I met with the Middletown High School Girls Softball Team on Saturday, March 5, 2011. The goal was to speak to the players, coaches and interested parents on the subject of proper stretching and strengthening for injury prevention.
I was invited by the parent of one of my patients who knew of my ability to connect with young adolescents and impress upon them the importance of taking care of their bodies, and preparing their muscles for a season of softball practices and games five days a week.
Most informed parents and coaches understand that overuse injuries are on the rise as statistics show that greater than thirty percent of repeated trauma injuries were in the age group of 15 to 24 year old females. Fifty percent of this age group was middle and high school female athletes. While sixty-two percent of organized sports injuries occur at the athlete's practices.
Many of the girls participated in strength training, usually at the school. Although having good intentions, I discovered that in these athletes many of the primary muscles that help with longevity and tolerance in the game were neglected in this training. Major deficits occurred including limited core building and posterior shoulder and mid-back strengthening exercises. Stretching, likewise, was found to be less than optimal.
A strong core - the muscles in your abdominals, back and glutes - gives you stability, power and endurance. If your core muscles can't support your pelvis it will drop which causes your hips, knees and ankles to lose proper alignment. When this happens you can't efficiently absorb forces and your muscles fatigue quickly. This could lead to common problems encountered by athletes such as anterior knee pain, shin splints, low back pain and foot pain or even fractures.
A strong mid and upper back and posterior shoulders allows one to hold proper form while running and playing as well as when sitting in the classroom. How many of our youth spend so much time with bad posture, rounding shoulders while on the computer, phone or video games. This sets up postural muscle imbalances that have been linked to rotator cuff problems, neck and low back pain and common baseball ailments such as "Little League Elbow.
Finally, the players learned the importance of stretching and flexibility. Flexible muscles are more efficient. Gains in strength and endurance allow muscles to recover more efficiently and lessen the chance of breakdown or "repeated trauma" complaints.
So, with that knowledge now, GOOD LUCK GIRLS. . . have a fun and safe 2011 softball season!