Originally posted on MileSplitIL
In most of my blogs so far, I haven’t mentioned much about what my expertise lays in, injuries and sports rehabilitation, especially in track and field athletes. However, this blog is going to be dedicated to what I think are the 3 biggest myths in training/injury prevention in track and field. So let’s start with the obvious, track and field is a sport full of repetition and pushing your body to the limits so injuries are going to occur. We always jump off the same foot, lean left, throw with the same hand, etc. Are there things that we are doing that have always been thought to prevent injury but in fact may actually make you prone for injury or decreased performance? Let’s take a look at the myths which I’m sure that a large majority of those reading this article are currently doing because I can’t remember ever coaching at a high school meet and not seeing one of these myths being performed.
Static Stretching– This may be a hard pill to swallow for some of you reading this but static stretching is one of the worst things you can do as an athlete. There are all sorts of studies showing that static stretching decreases athlete performance. One such study was performed with D1 track and field sprinters and clearly showed decreased performance (study). It also decreases the performance of distance runners (study). For those still saying it is OK to static stretch after activity, it isn’t, here is a study that shows static stretching affects muscles ability to fire 24 hours later. Coaches, please stop having your athletes stand in a circle and static stretch before or after activity. Athletes, if your coach is doing this, please print the research articles above and give them to your coach. Unfortunately, according to this, most athletic trainers still recommend static stretching, they should read the research too. I suggest sticking to dynamic stretching and foam rolling!
Sit Ups/Ab Crunches– Another tough pill for old school coaches to swallow. However, when , the world’s foremost researcher on the bio-mechanics of the spine, states that sit ups are a good way to cause a disc herniation, perhaps we should listen. In fact, a sit up places approximately 764 lbs of compression force to your lumbar spine which is more force than humans can produce with a punch. Want a strong, functional core? Don’t do sit ups or ab crunches! My general rule of thumb to train the core is to do exercises where you brace the core and move other things. That’s the same concept we do when we sprint, we brace the core and move other things. We never forward flex while sprinting so why would we train it that way? You can read more about this topic in a blog I wrote here.
Ice– Ice is a debatable subject, I could easily write a full blog about just ice with all the new negative research coming out on it. But I will keep it simple, Dr. Gabe Mirkin, the man who originally coined the term RICE (REST ICE COMPRESSION ELEVATION) states “We never rest or ice athletes anymore. RICE is fine for someone who doesn’t need to get back to training quickly, but it’s terrible for competitive athletes.” He further goes on to state, “About all icing is good for is a placebo effect. There’s no evidence that icing speeds healing or makes you stronger; in fact, it makes you weaker so you can’t do your next hard workout.” You can read more on Dr. Mirkin’s website. In my personal opinion, ice is OK to use only in the acute setting for managing swelling such as in an ankle sprain but should not be used at any other point as a “recovery” tool.
If you’re still not convinced of these three myths, please let me know, I’d be happy to share more studies/research. It took me two years to convince Parkway West Hall of Fame Coach Dale Shepherd to quit having his distance runners’ static stretch. I kept showing him the research and he kept telling me he’d been having his athletes do it for 40 years and it had worked just fine. One day he came down to the track and with a gleam in his eye, he had me note his new warm up that didn’t include static stretching. He then winked at me and said, see old dogs can learn new tricks, we just take longer.
-Dr. Brian Damhoff