There are misconceptions about the importance of flexibility for hockey players. Flexibility, or stretching, before a game is not essential for enhanced performance. Moreover, having increased flexibility does not dramatically reduce the risk of injury. Mobility training, however, being relatively new in sports performance, is similar to a dynamic warm-up, but better. Mobility training works on joint range of motion, balance, core strength, and is a great warm-up.
How important is flexibility and stretching for sports performance?
The importance of flexibility is sport dependent. Sports like gymnastics require a lot of flexibility and range of motion of the joints because of the characteristics of the events. Other sports like hockey, require “sport specific” flexibility of joints, muscles, and tendons. Hockey players need some flexibility in the hips, especially the hip adductors (the groin) because they are constantly pushing off to the side which stretching the groin. Internal and external rotation of the hips for pivots is a requirement. The core, back, shoulders, and knees do not require a lot of flexibility. In fact, Stuart McGill, Ph.D., spinal biomechanics expert at the University of Waterloo, indicates that the back requires stability not flexibility (for injury prevention).
Psychology of Stretching
There is a strong psychological component to stretching. Some athletes feel better and more confident when they stretch prior to a game or practice. Stretching can be somewhat of a superstition for some athletes, which can be important in preparation for a game.
Does increased flexibility and stretching decrease the risk of injury?
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