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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care

By David Freidson | Posted: Monday, April 28, 2014 12:00 am

It's your first softball game of the season.

You're on the way to the field and you feel bad because you said that this was the year that you were going to do some running and drills to get your body in shape for the softball season. But it was a long winter and work was busy. You couldn't even make a couple of practices that your softball team had this year because of family obligations.

But you're ready, you say to yourself. You're a former college baseball player and you've played softball for the past 13 years.

You arrive at the field just in time for the game to start. Your team is up first. You know you should probably warm up, but you haven't seen some of the guys since last season, so you catch up on life.

It's your turn to bat. You hit a line drive to the gap and you know that you're going to try to make it to second. You take off to first and you hear and feel a loud "pop" from your hamstring and you fall to the ground.

The athlete in the above example just suffered a grade III hamstring tear. Doctors would probably tell the athlete that he or she won't be playing softball the rest of the season.

Hamstring injuries are common in athletic endeavors that involve maximal muscle contraction, such as the example above. Preventable factors for these types of injuries are tight hamstring muscles, poor conditioning and lack of warm-up.

How do you know if you have tight hamstrings? If you can't touch your toes during a seated toe touch with your legs straight, then you have tight hamstrings. And if you can't get your lower leg to 90 degrees while lying on your back, you have tight hamstrings.

The solution for tight hamstrings is to slowly stretch these muscles for 30-60 seconds at least once per day. I prefer stretches to be done when the body is warm such as after a hot shower, or after exercise.

If you know you are going to be playing a sport this spring and summer, then it is best to condition your body for that sport. For the softball player above, it would have been ideal if he or she would have done some running drills two to three times per week a month before the season started.

I would suggest to do interval training, or walk/run training at a field or a treadmill. I would suggest warming up an interval session starting with a walk for a few minutes then jogging for a few minutes. I would recommend starting with running at about 50 percent of maximum effort for 10-30 seconds, then walking for 30-60 seconds, then running for 60 percent and so on.

What I just described would also be a warm-up for softball that I would like to see. Obviously more sport specific warm-ups would be needed such as throwing for the softball player. Gradually increasing distance and velocity over several minutes is what I suggest.

We have such limited warm weather in Minnesota, especially this year. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care. Take the proper preventative measures so you can enjoy the activities you love all spring and summer.

David Freidson is a licensed chiropractor and works out of the Synergy Health & Rehabilitation office in Minnetonka. To learn more, visit www.synergyhealthmn.com or call 952-475-4080.

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