20th Nov 2009

Sports Injuries and Flexibility

Last weekend I was helping my uncle cut down some old trees in his front yard. The trees were located right next to his home, and a few of the trees were leaning toward the home. My role in cutting down the trees was supposed to be the easy part of the job. We attached his truck to the top of each tree so that I could put tension on the tree, pulling it away from the house as my uncle cut the tree from the opposite side. As I sat in the truck, I had to turn my head back to watch what was happening with the chainsaw work behind me. I ran into problems as I found myself needing to keep my head turned around. You see, I’ve had neck and back problems (stiffness and pain) since high school. As I struggled to keep my head turned to see behind me, I became somewhat dizzy and my neck started to tighten up. To relief the pressure, I’d have to occasionally turn my head back around for a few seconds at a time.

Although I’ve never had a diagnosis that was definitive (I’ve been to a few medical doctors and chiropractors), I’m positive the problems I’ve experienced with my neck are related to playing football (middle linebacker) and wrestling in high school. Those days of indulging in a carefree sense of near immortality as a teenager have made it difficult nowadays to spend any length of time not being bothered by the pain and stiffness that have increased over the years.

My tree pulling experience reminded me of how significant an effect sports injuries have on a person’s flexibility. I’ve never been a very flexible person. Some of the stiffness is likely caused by heredity. However, I have noticed that the injuries I suffered by leading with my helmet when tackling, or having my neck and back stretched unnaturally during wrestling have made me increasingly inflexible. There is a correlation between being inflexible and feeling pain (which many times is synonymous with stiffness).

Googling “sports injuries and flexibility” turns up plenty of information, including insightful studies, about the benefits of stretching with regard to preventing sports injuries. It is widely understood that stretching out adequately to prepare for sports helps prevent muscle injuries. On the other hand, damage to a person’s muscles obviously affects their ability to expand and contract normally, which means a reduction in flexibility.

How Can I Get My Flexibility Back?

A good place to start when working towards overcoming sports injuries and regaining flexibility is to create a benchmark for where you are currently. The physical therapy products has no shortage for range of motion and flexibility testing. There are accepted norms for the various joints and muscle systems that comprise the mobility of the human body. For example, using aCervical Range Of Motion (CROM) device, a doctor or physical therapist can determine how you compare to the accepted norm for flexibility in the neck. You can use that benchmark as a starting point from which you can progress back towards the normalrange of motion. Following a workout regimen (which would likely include both stretching and strengthening exercises), you can make calculated progress towards full health. Although it’s impossible to reach the level of health you would have if you’d avoided the injury in the first place, at least you can improve your existing circumstance, relieving the pain and giving you more mobility. Using a flexibility testing device that’s relevant to your injury to measure your progress will motivate you to continue working toward full or nearly full recovery.