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BP Blog

Subject: Sunday morning under 8s rugby training
Category: Physiotherapy
Posted by: Jon Blackburn (10.01.11)

Sunday morning under 8s rugby training – who needs to warm-up more – you or them?!

As I stood with all the other dads and mums at the side of the pitch on Sunday, wishing I’d remembered to wear another fleece (and a woolly hat), and as the wind howled across the pitches, I decided that this really wasn’t such a bad way to cure the effects of the previous evening’s over-indulgence in red wine – I was certainly awake!

Our six year old has just joined the Eastleigh Pirates U8 team and is enjoying every minute of charging around the field like a demented wasp in his black and yellow jersey.   It never ceases to amaze me how at the age of 6 you never seem to feel the cold – as long as you’re moving that is!  However, as we all arrived five minutes late, scrabbled for parking spaces, ran from the car carrying any bag or cluster of clothes found in the boot or back seat (regardless of whether or not they contained rugby boots or swimming goggles), it also struck me how little time we allow for our kids to warm up effectively.

Over recent years available research on stretching and warm-up has been steering us gradually towards the concept that we should focus more on our warm-up, prior to exercise, than on stretching our cold muscles.  Stretching muscles once we have warmed them up may have additional benefits, but stretching cold muscle may in fact be unhelpful in injury prevention.  Although there seems to be little consensus in the research on the benefits of stretching, probably the most useful time to stretch is after you exercise, when the muscles are warm.  It is after vigorous exercise that your muscles are likely to become tight and restrict your normal joint range of movement. This is important in sporty adolescents, whose long bones grow very quickly during a growth spurt, leaving their muscles relatively shortened.

So, back to the problem of warm-up on a hectic Sunday morning.  What easy steps can we parents take to reduce the risk of injury in our kids:

  1. Tracksuit trousers – sounds like common sense but if they wear their “trackies” in the car and for the first 15 minutes of play, they are more likely to get some warmth into their leg muscle and increase blood flow through the muscle tissue before they really start sprinting, when they generate maximum stresses in their muscles, tendons and ligaments.
  2. Park 5-10 mins from the pitch.  A brisk walk (or, if you’re feeling really energetic, jog) to the pitch from the will serve as a reasonable warm-up.  It may be quicker than trying to find parking at the grounds.   Even better, if you live close enough to the pitch, wrap up warm and walk the full distance – think of that carbon footprint!
  3. Getting your youngster to jog up and down the sideline while the coach is setting-up – or if you really want to clear your hangover – jogging with them!
  4. If you’ve only got a short journey to the pitch, get them to play on the Wii for fifteen minutes while you’re getting ready to go – obviously they will then need to wrap up so that they don’t loose the warmth they’ve gained when sitting in the car.  But, be careful to select the game carefully – you may have difficulty getting them to leave on time – Vector’s score may have to be beaten on “Mario&Sonic at the Winter Games” before you can leave for the match!

Obviously these are just light hearted suggestions but give it some thought – adequate warm-up is important in reducing the risk of injury in sports!