Preventing the “Weekend Warrior” Blues
One of the greatest signs of the spring to summer ritual in Clark County and throughout the U.S. is softball.
Talent and competitive levels vary greatly as well. There are both highly competitive and “recreational” (a term I use carefully after being battered in a men’s “recreational” soccer league years ago) that are comprised of all men’s, all women’s, co-ed, company and countless other combinations of individuals looking to combine fun with competition.
Lurking somewhere between the sprint to first base and chasing that ball in the outfield exists a hidden danger – injury.
I have spoken to multiple friends competing in these these leagues whose day job looks don’t even remotely mimic their mad dashes around the diamond come that clear spring evening under the lights or the sun-burn Sunday double-header.
The problem occurs when a disparity exists between youthful enthusiasm and a body that wants to remain equally enthusiastic but can’t. More simply, pulling up lame during that sprint to first base is not uncommon, especially when the body is ill-prepared for the event.
In honor of the weekend warrior who just doesn’t have much hope of making money on any softball circuit, it seems appropriate to address this topic and to tip the odds more in your favor of being able to the water cooler, the day after the big game.
Pre-season – For many, it may seem too intense talking about your recreational softball season as one requiring a pre-season, but the bottom line is that even a couple months of strengthening your oblique muscles of the stomach, hamstrings, and shoulder muscles can make a world of difference in staying injury free during your season. It’s never to late to start.
Dynamic Stretching – Dynamic stretching is done prior to the sporting event and involves using momentum to take a joint or limb beyond it’s usual range of motion. Start of by raising your core temperature with a light run or light calisthenics and then begin your dynamic movements. These can include high leg kicks, walking lunges (forward or backwards), alternate toe touches and high knee marches. There are countless “moving stretches” that can best prepare you.
Leg Strengthening – There is a significant mismatch between the strength of the quads (front thigh muscles) and the hamstrings located in the back of the leg. This difference in mass and strength can frequently result in hamstring injuries and pulls. Prior to, and even during the season, it behooves any athlete (weekend or otherwise) to work on both their hamstring strength and flexibility, that when compromised are responsible for a host of injuries.
Core-Work – The act of hitting a ball is incredibly forceful on the core and incurs significant force around the muscles and ligaments supporting the spine. Taking a few swings with the bat in both directions works, in many ways like a dynamic stretch and will prepare this musculature to work explosively. Additionally, the obliques are best strengthened when a twisting motion is implemented into core work, such as a sit-up where the opposite elbow is brought to the opposite knee.
Static Stretch- Although listed last, this part of post-game follow-through is critical. Static stretching is just what the name implies – holding the muscle in a stretched position for at least 20 seconds. While frequently minimized, ignored or overlooked, it plays a significant role in post game soreness, decreasing the chance for future injury and avoiding the muscle “hangover” the following day.
As the days get longer, and the temptation of reliving your glory days as an athlete are just too difficult to resist, remember that preparing for any sports activity has a preparation phase that when followed will maximize performance, minimize injury and facilitate that hall-of-fame career that has been eluding you.