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Proper stretching important for young athletes

Proper stretching is a vital yet often overlooked component of warming up before participation in athletic activities.

Stretching is an important tool in managing common muscle imbalances that often occur in a young athlete’s growing body. Flexible joints require less energy to move through a greater range of motion, which decreases overall risk of injury while improving physical performance.

The goal of stretching is to strengthen muscles and surrounding tissue safely and effectively. Flexibility training has two basic methods.

  • Dynamic stretching involves using dynamic movements to take a muscle or joint through its full range of motion without holding a sustained stretch at any point. When performed correctly, dynamic stretching warms up joints, maintains current flexibility and reduces muscle tension. Studies have suggested that this method of stretching is best prior to any sports-related activity.

  • Static stretching involves taking a specific joint through a normal range of motion to a comfortable end point. This stretch is held for about 10 to 20 seconds. Static stretches are useful after playing a sport once muscles are well heated. These stretches help increase blood flow and prevent buildup of lactic acid, which results in muscle soreness and cramps.

An appropriate stretching program should be a part of every athlete’s daily exercise routine. After all, no one wants a season cut short due to a preventable injury.