Before heading out onto the hockey field stretching is crucial. Stretching can help loosen muscles and stretching can increase muscle flexibility which in turn helps reduce the chance of muscle tears, pulls or other injury during a game. When muscles are warmed up and stretched ahead of exertion there is less chance of muscle soreness the next day.
Before stretching it is best to warm the muscles up with some light running. Once muscles are warmed up it is time to do the stretches.
Lower body muscles make the greatest effort during field hockey so if there is only time for a few stretches the lower body is the area on which to focus. There are many good stretches; these are the top three most important ones.
Stretch the Calf (back lower legs)
The calf is stretched by standing facing a wall, about 30 cm away from the wall, with the hands flat against the wall. One leg is placed behind the other pointing straight ahead and with the heel flat. Then the athlete leans forward slowly keeping the back leg straight while also keeping the heel on the ground and bending the front leg. Once a stretch is felt in the middle of the calf the position is held for 15 to 20 seconds. Then the process is repeated on the other leg. Eight repetitions for each leg are recommended.
Stretch the Hamstring (back upper leg)
The Hamstring can be stretched by placing one heel on a solid surface at about hip level. The leg is straight with some slight give at the knee. The athlete reaches a hand to the toe of the stretched out leg, keeping the back straight and bending from the waist.
If there is no structure on which to put the heel of the stretched out leg, the same result can be achieved sitting on the floor or the ground. The athlete sits on the floor with both legs straight out; then reaches towards the toes keeping the back and knees straight. Again it is important to bend from the waist.
Whichever way the stretch is performed it is held for 15 to 20 seconds. The stretch is repeated on the other leg. Eight repetitions for each leg are good.
Stretch the Groin
The groin is used heavily while playing hockey. Hockey players lean over a lot while dribbling; and stretch out to hit the ball. Stretching the groin can reduce the chance of a groin pull or other injury.
The athlete sits criss-cross (knees bent and feet together) on the floor or ground. With elbows they gently press the knees down toward the floor stopping when a slight stretch is felt. The stretch is held for 15 to 20 seconds and is repeated 8 times.
The same stretch can be achieved in a lying down position. The athlete lies on the ground with legs in the same position as for the seated stretch. Then the legs are slowly, gently stretched toward the floor. When a slight stretch is felt the stretch is held for 15 to 20 seconds. The stretch is repeated 8 times.
Consistently warming up before the game or before a practice is important. After the warm up stretching the calf muscles, hamstring and groin will be a good way to prevent injury and soreness. If one is having difficulty with this, the Physiotherapists who make up Physiotherapy Cambridge are a great resource when it comes to learning the correct way to do stretches.
For more information visit http://www.physio-cambridge.co.uk or call today on 01223 581 200 or find us at 2 Ely Road, Milton, Cambridge, CB24 6DD