Guest Blog by:

Michael J. Barr, PT, DPT, MSR

Sports Medicine Coordinator

MUSC Sports Medicine

I have said it a million times to my patients and the athletes that I work with, that most professional athletes are physically freaks of nature; that is why they can run faster, jump higher, throw faster, hit harder, and even recover quicker than high school, club and amateur adult athletes.  Many of my patients say to me, X professional football player recovered from ACL reconstruction after only 4 months, why is it taking me 5-6 months?  Or professional baseball player Z can recover from a labral repair after only 5-6 months, why is it taking me 6-7 months?  The answer is: most professional athletes are physically freaks of nature.

Amateur athletes want to emulate their professional role models, but we cannot control genetics, however we can control training and dedication.  I recently had the opportunity to work with elite female tennis players at the Family Circle Cup; these athletes travel around the world playing in multiple back to back tournaments and train with minimal rest days, but even these players get fatigued, but it is how they take care of their body which allows them to compete at this level.

What the average spectator sees at the Family Circle Cup:

The player is driven to the stadium court in a golf cart; she gets out, drops off her bag, pulls out her racquet, and gets 5 minutes of warm up on the court for some ground strokes, volleys and serves.

What we see behind the scenes at the Family Circle Cup for a player’s match who is scheduled to begin at approximately 2:00:

Around 12:30 she starts on a stationary bike or treadmill for about 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of static stretching.  Then with her coach or on her own, she completes another 10-15 minutes of agility exercises followed by 10-15 minutes of dynamic stretching either in the club house or on one of the back courts.  So their non-tennis warm-up takes them just under an hour, including time to hydrate, prior to starting their tennis specific warm-up.  Most then take a few minutes to mentally rest and prepare for their match; they then travel in the golf cart to the stadium court …

Amateur athletes want to compete and recover like the professionals, but why do they not prepare their bodies like their professional counterparts?  Some say “we do not have the time or space.”

Answer: planning; many FCC players put cones down in the hallway for agility exercises and laydown on the floor in the clubhouse to stretch. 

Others say “I do not need to warm-up; I have always just shown up and played.” 

Answer: the body needs to go through a progressive comprehensive warm-up in preparation for any type of physical activity or sporting event; your heart rate needs to progressively increase and your muscles need to progressively increase in temperature and elongate in preparation for the demands of any sporting activity. 

The more serious ones will say “I know I need to warm-up but I really do not know what to do.” 

Every sport and athlete is different, but in general 5 to 10 minutes of jogging and agility exercises, followed by 5 minutes of dynamic stretching, and then 5 minutes of static stretching prior to starting sport specific activities would be my suggested minimal warm-up.

Whatever level of athlete you are or aspire to be, my suggestion is to emulate the professionals; proper comprehensive warm-ups, cool-downs, and training programs are essential for injury prevention, the longevity of your time in sports, and for your overall performance … give it a try, your body and game will thank you.