“Why should I stretch? Does a cheetah stretch before it chases its prey?” –Ken Griffey Jr
For all intensive purposes, Ken Griffey Jr. is right, Cheetah’s do not stretch before they hunt down their food. But the dichotomy between stretching and not stretching before performing athletic motions has experts on both sides of the fence. For example, our friends at the Mayo Clinic suggest that “some research shows that stretching doesn’t reduce muscle soreness after exercise, and other studies show that static stretching performed immediately before a sprint event may slightly worsen performance.” That is some harsh news to those that are on the opposite side of the fence holding high their pedigree for a strong and efficient stretch before entering into a mobile sporting competition. I suppose Mr. Griffey is supporting those studies. However, what is not revealed is how much are these athletes stretching outside of those few precious minutes before a competition.
With the recent craze in the past two decades of this small movement called “yoga” (air quotes), many have jumped on the bandwagon for, at the moment, a movement still gaining momentum. Many believe that yoga is not just about stretching, but increasing your flexibility, which is done over a period of time, and not moments before a game. Experts now see flexibility as the key component to high performance on the professional level of sports.
And I believe that is where the two sides can come to a compromise. Yoga, in its most simplistic explanation, is really just glorified stretching. But because it is done with the intent to create further flexibility, thus giving way to a greater range of motion, athletes such as: surfers, snowboarders, wake surfers and the traditional sports of baseball, basketball, football and hockey are all using this as part of their regime to gain an upper hand on their competition. To conclude this brief summary, what many may not realize is that while Ken Griffey Jr. was invisible for the first decade of his career, injuries eventually caught up to him, and often. And while it would be unfair of me to assume that those injuries were due to poor flexibility, one can without question say that it certainly couldn’t have hindered the backend of his career to be more agile.
My advice for now is to err on the side of caution. It certainly can’t hurt to grab your toes every once and a while.
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