Sound Advice for Weekend Warriors: Stretch It Out

Orthopaedics

Dr. Walton W. Curl, Professor of Orthopaedics and Clinical Director of Sports Medicine, likes to summarize how injuries occur among the weekend warrior crowd.

It’s almost always, he says, the end result of 1 of 3 categories for men who like to play: “too much, too fast, too far.’’

When any person – men or women, athletes or non-athletes – try to push themselves to do more exercises, go faster or run father and don’t do so with the proper buildup to those activities, they set themselves up for possible injury.

Curl says that tendinitis is by far the most common injury orthopedists see. It’s a category that covers different parts of the body, from shoulder to heel. “The older we get, our muscles lose some of their elasticity,’’ Curl says. Overuse of muscles that are not properly stretched out and warmed up can lead to pulls and strains.

The problems of “too much, too fast, too far” lead to stress on tendons, muscles or bones.

Improper activity can make bones weaker and more vulnerable to breaks. But people can have bone pain without a break. In tendons, which connect muscle to bone, tiny micro tears frequently occur with stress, but these can heal themselves. In muscles, problems occur when the muscles aren’t flexible enough or strong enough to handle an activity.

Nearly all of the stress problems can be resolved by warming up and stretching, but that must be done correctly, too, Curl says.

He recommends slow and steady stretching. For example, sit on the ground and reach toward your toes. But don’t expect to get there right away. You build to the full stretch. People who bounce up and down to stretch rather quickly or violently are practicing what Curl calls “ballistic stretching,’’ a practice that leads to stress on tendons, muscle or bone.

Our impatience with warming up can be seen all over, Curl says. Examples can be seen every day at the golf course. How many men park the car, put on their shoes and tee it up? That’s a bad practice. Ideally, golfers should warm up with stretching and hitting maybe half a bucket of balls to warm up their muscles.

Likewise, even a more sedate activity such as mowing should begin with stretching. Most people mow once a week, so the muscles they use in that activity need to be warmed up, as opposed to, say, workers for lawn service companies who are out there mowing every day.

Curl says yoga is a great way to stretch and get your body ready for activities. He says when you go to a yoga studio in Winston-Salem, half the people you see are dancers and athletes.

One reason Curl believes men, in particular, need to pay attention to warming up and stretching is that they are more prone to weekend warrior injuries.

“It’s just that probably more men are doing crazy things than females for whatever reason,’’ he says, smiling. 

Learn more about Wake Forest Baptist's Sports Medicine program.

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Last Updated: 03-24-2014
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