Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The price the children pay

I looked at two young boys (7 year olds) for their dad, as part of their long term preparation for sporting success. I showed dad what I saw. No, they didn't stretch. Yes, there were very active in sport and had already done a lot of training. I shared my concerns re injuries with this approach and the direction they were heading. Two weeks later I got a call from Dad - one of his boys had an inflamed Achilles and needed attention.

A few days before I was stretching a group of 9-10 year old boys involved in soccer. I had one of their older brothers (11-12 yrs) in the group for the workout. He was not participating in the stretches. I asked why. He said "I can't do stretching before games or training." I said "What are you talking about?" He said "I've been told by a physio that I am not to do any stretching before a game or training." I was shocked and saddened. The boy had already had his first knee surgery under general anaesthetic.

A week before I gave a presentation to a netball coaching group, during which I shared my belief that the absence or lack of stretching, including pre-training stretching, was a breach of our duty to athletes, and in my opinion criminally negligent. But don't worry, I assured them - you won't get sued, because it is the dominant belief that avoiding stretching is right and good.

About this time I heard of a local netball club that has informed their amateur/parent coaches that static stretching before training is banned. They are not allowed to do it. I felt sad for this sport.

Last Friday I attended an introductory coaching course for a specific sport. The young, enthusiastic and well meaning coaching director proudly talked to the group about doing a 'dynamic warm up'. He did one or two quick static stretches, but mostly the 'dynamic stretches'. He also mentioned the words 'core strength' during the workout, confirming that he is 'up to date' and 'all over' the dominant trends and buzzwords. I felt sad for this sport.

Just today a mum told me of her sons diagnosis of his ankle injury. Don't worry, she assured me, he is doing a lot of stretching. I felt encouraged about this situation. Then she continued, and demonstrated two dynamic stretches. Then my heart sank for the body....

The price the kids pay. The price the adult athletes and physically active play. For their desire to conform. For their blind belief that their best interests are being taken care of by those who promoted the trends. The trends, that is, once they identify the market acceptance is adequate but not to exposed, so they appear to be the leader of the information.

The irony is this - a trend promoter /information broker can promote the trend, then a few years later promote a new trend, even one 180 degrees turnaround from the first - and walk away with no penalty. Those who follow the trends pay the price.

In the case of stretching, one exact example where a particular information broker spent a number of years warning people off static stretching. Now that there appears to be an inkling of a groundswell of a swing back to the habit of static stretching by the masses, this trend promoter / information broker / social commentator now tells you its okay to do static stretching, and further you should do it. But of course you probably needs to buy their video they currently promote to help you cope with the reversal of position they've taken. No mention of the trail of destruction from the dogmatically held 'belief before this belief' that static stretching before training has no place. Nor the damage that will occur moving forward in those who cling to the last trend of 'you can't do static stretching before training'....

The masses pay the price - the marketeer moves on collecting revenue from what ever information sells the most and provides optimal market positioning at any given time....
If only people knew...But even if they did, they probably wouldn't believe it....

Hint - don't take flexibility advice from those who can't touch their toes....and who don't live with a commitment to stretching...but how do we tell the kids that, when they accept the authority of those who society has given authority to. Especially those who don't stretch but have conformed to the dominant and misguided belief that pre-training static stretching is bad. Here's one technique I use to discern - I listen to what a person giving advice says. If they regurgitate trend based information or buzzwords, I don't take much notice of them. Just what I do, if it helps.

This morning my 12 year old daughter complained of pain just under her knee joint, and reminded me of it after school. She does 10 or so sessions of training/games a week including school PE, none of which I control. Tonight my 9 year old son complained of back pain. He does about the same volume, of which one of those sessions I control. All I can do is seek to influence the other sessions. And that's the big battle.

I have added millions of dollars to athletes bank accounts by extending and heightening their careers through my injury prevention work. That's easy. Typically just the athlete and I, so easy to guide the process and outcome.

But this much more complex. Influencing the beliefs of the average coach - that's much harder. The faceless men in manufacutring pulling the strings from the shadows, granting those who willing to comply with their quiet requests on content - the researcher, the information broker, the publishing prac-demic. Selling their soul for the short term promise of financial or marketing promotion support.

As I trace the influences back to their sources, I wonder if the information broker publishing content for the sake of maintaining market position and cash flow has a full understanding of the responsibility they bear by disseminating what they do. Flippantly flip-flopping from idea to idea, trend to trend.

The battle to undo the damage caused by these influences is a massive fight. One that I don't expect to fully win. However it's a good fight, a worthy battle. If you have children, I believe you will know what I am saying.


  1. Amen, you static stretch as much as is needed. If your flexibility is fine stretch some to keep it there, especially after the training.
    If you are however lacking, make a time investment in stretching. If you are really lacking... let's say you are 35yr old desk jokey, go overboard: add morning and evening stretches to your pre and post workout stretches, because you have to not only increase flexibility but fight the effects of spending 10-13h a day shortening your muscles.

  2. I think that within any field of endeavor there are fundamentals that probably ought to be adhered to, they exist in everything from the stock market to playing marbles. But given the flood of information now available, it’s crucial that ones powers of discernment need to be honed and I’d say that area of things is much broader in scope than that of sports training.