I recently attended the Sounders Sport Science symposium and one of the presenters mentioned how observational data from Top Sports Lab has indicated that flexibility (or lack of) is a big predictor for injury in soccer. Upon hearing this I was a little surprised. Having worked in a variety of other sports, co-authored 2 peer-reviewed studies (1, 2) on flexibility for sport performance, and done quite a bit of research on flexibility training, I knew that perhaps more so than any other physical quality, flexibility is surrounded by myths and misconceptions. Here’s a short list of those myths:
- Increased flexibility makes you faster and more explosive
- Increased flexibility reduces your likelihood for injury
- Flexibility training reduces lactic acid
- Flexibility training reduces soreness
In several of the cases, the myth isn’t just incorrect, it’s actually the OPPOSITE of what actually happens.
So this got me thinking of how lack of flexibility could actually be an injury correlate in soccer players when it shows almost no positive relation (and in many cases a negative one) in other activities. The answer is quite simple…the pictures tell the whole story.
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Hardly ever addressed at the youth level. Seems as though habits learned early might stick with the player.
Great post. How does one test and track this Mike?
Good question and one I don’t have an answer for. Historically, I haven’t quantitatively tracked ROM but looked at function…can they do what I’m asking or are they limited by their lack of mobility / flexibility. That works when it’s more of a performance indicator but when we start to look at it like an injury indicator than we need to at least identify who are the problem athletes (chronically tight in hamstring, lumbar, etc) and address accordingly. Thankfully our medical staff does a good job with this and I trust them to do their job.
I agree, excellent post. The question is, what kind of flexibility training is best for prevention of these types of injuries?
It’s important to differentiate between the acute & chronic effects of flexibility training in soccer. Short term mostly negative but long term positive
I think the culprit in most cases is not so much the flexibility as the ability of the musculotendinous unit to remain intact in response to perturbation. Hamstring injuries are largely a matter of their ability to deal with GRF as well as flexibility but each is considered under different conditions- early phase or late phase; concentric or eccentric contraction. An athlete with limited strength and flexibility may be at risk but wont suffer injury at less that maximal sprinting levels. Similarly, Drogba may get his shot away as pictured above, and sprint down the touch line after scoring without incurring injury. The outcome may be entirely different if the Arsenal man makes contact. From the functional ROM that Mike mentioned, I think the question is more about the musculotendinous response in end range more than how much the unit can stretch.