“STRETCHING” THE NFL: MUSCLE TISSUE MATTERS
“Master your body ….. before you try to master your sport.” – Bill LeSuer
With the Superbowl just around the corner, many of the teams leading the pack are sharing some of their claim to fame success stories as to why they excel at their sport.
Most recently, the San Francisco 49ers chalked up their current success to many factors, but one stood out and that is – STRETCHING. Now, when I say “stretching,” I do not mean Yoga or general flexibility in those terms. I mean tissue health and that includes elements of mobility, stability and motor control. In this case, let’s look at mobility that is relative to the functionality of the sport – Football. The game of Champions.
The San Francisco 49ers’ two-year rise from the depths of mediocrity is widely attributed to their ferocious defense and to the speed and agility of their quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. Some are saying that he might just become the most-bet-on player in Superbowl history, surpassing Peyton Manning. That is one big statement to make.
It’s been 18 years since the San Fran 49ers have advanced to the Superbowl, so why are they playing so good? How’s this for another possibility: Maybe it’s that they stretch a lot?
In the Wall Street Journal on January 16th, Several 49ers made headlines saying “the explanation is a stretching regimen. We do these old school stretches—heavy, heavy squats with chains, a lot of flexibility, a lot of warming up when a lot of people in the NFL skip warming up,” said safety Donte Whitner. “That’s why we have a good, healthy football team right now.”
The 49ers we are told, stretch religiously (both static and dynamic based). Stretching often gets short shrift compared with weight lifting, agility drills and sprints. Let’s face it, if you want to see the face of determination and aggression, most likely you see a shot of line backer back squatting a small house. However, I can say from personal experience that I have made many a CFL player start to sweat and scrinch his face up with an passive active straight leg raise or trigger point under the scapular region of the shoulder.
In the Wall Street Journal, Mike Bracko, a sports physiologist based in Calgary, said stretching is considered a much lower priority in the NFL than “diets or weight training or jump-training.” However with the being said, the NLF is starting to take a new twist, seeing benefit to not just stretching, but “MOBILITY” training, ensuring their players muscle tissue has the right balance of elasticity and “pull factor” that can withstand the need for speed, quick movements, cutting and, of course stopping a 300lb tank if need be (on the field of off).
I had the honor of corresponding with Mr. Bill LeSuer, THE retired Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Medical Staff who specializes in Muscle Tissue and Body Work Therapy. His work is known by many professional athletes and teams, and while flying under the radar most of the time, his skills are rated at the top of the list. He says… “athletes spend thousands of hours training but almost always neglect the single most important factor in human performance….. their muscle tissue.”
Healthy tissue means healthy movement, poor tissue means poor movement, it’s that simple. More importantly Bill says that when we add undue load to any dysfunctional pattern,” well that’s a potential injury, is just a ticking time bomb. Bill’s company “Flexibility Pro,” and his performance treatment techniques, focuses on precise palpation techniques, restoring pliability, flexibility, and range of motion, while at the same time working to remove adhesion’s, contractures, and restrictions in the muscle tissue; which lead to poor movement mechanics. How we stretch, is just as important as why we stretch. This is why I say it’s not just about stretching, it’s muscle tissue health. Stretching is one of the tools, in the muscle tissue toolbox.
FMS & The NFL:
Almost every player in the NFL is screened using the Functional Movement Systems protocol to ensure the coaches work with therapists and medical personnel to catch dysfunction pre season, in season and post. Functional Movement Systems screenings are utilized by several top professional and college sports teams, as well as a host of government agencies, private industries, and noted medical facilities, all over the world.
These organizations understand that it costs more to rehabilitate a team member following an injury than it does to prevent the injury from occurring in the first place. Here are a few of the organizations currently utilizing the functional movement screens:
- Green Bay Packers
- Indianapolis Colts
- Mayo Clinic
- Montreal Canadians
- New York Jets
- Oakland Raiders
- Orange County Fire Department
- San Francisco 49ers
- Secret Service
- Stanford University
- Texas A&M
- Toronto Blue Jays
- United States Government
- University of Georgia
- United States Military
FMS – Functional Movement Screen – Functional Movement Screen is a multi-part system used to evaluate the quality of a “movement pattern.” The Functional Movement Screen generates the FMS Score, which is used to target dysfunction in the body and is then further used to track progress through corrective intervention strategies to help restore functionality and normal movement. By screening these patterns, the FMS readily identifies functional limitations and asymmetries that can lead to injury. This scoring system is directly linked to the most beneficial corrective exercises to restore mechanically sound movement patterns.
Dysfunction in the body, if left untreated, can reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and can distort body awareness. For this reason, The Functional Movement Systems screening process was created to gauge balance, stability, and mobility.
SFMA – Selective Functional Movement Assessment – The SFMA is a clinical assessment that takes the FMS Screen further. If during the FMS screen the coach and client find pain, this is then either referred to a clinical professional who can assess further, or if in a clinical setting, the professional can then further break that movement down by applying the SFMA Top Tier breakouts.
By addressing the most dysfunctional non-painful pattern, the application of targeted interventions we can focus on capturing injury and further risk of injury and this must include the assessment of body relative movement patterns, not just isolation at the point of pain. When the clinical assessment is initiated from the perspective of full body movement patterns, the clinician has the opportunity to identify meaningful impairments that may be seemingly unrelated to the main musculoskeletal diagnosis but are contributing to the primary complaint (regional interdependence).
Next weekend’s Super bowl game should be one to remember and let’s see if that 49ers new found mobility will bring a Super Bowl championship. In closing, the rule of thumb here for any athlete, or even any weekend warrior is to ensure you create a program that focuses on the long term health of your tissue. It makes sense to take the necessary steps towards catching injuries and breakdowns before they happen. The FMS and applied Corrective Movement strategies can help, but it also takes a team of integrated professionals to get you there. Surround yourself with reputable, caring professionals who work together to offer you to tools towards your best self – your best tissue health.
I know who I am cheering for, what about you?
- Functional Movement Systems: http://www.functionalmovement.com/about
- WSJ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324734904578243930799732200.html
- Bill LeSeur and FlexibilityPro – http://www.flexibilitypro.com/Home.php