Importance of Warming Up before Sport - Sports Injury Prevention

What is a warm-up?

A warm-up is a session which takes place prior to doing physical activity; usually a warm-up will consist of light cardiovascular exercises combined with stretches.

What happens in a warm-up?

Most warm-up sessions will include a combination of cardiovascular exercises, stretching and strength drills. The cardiovascular exercises are designed to increase circulation, increase body temperature and bring the heart rate up, while stretching warms the muscles and prepare them for the movements they will be required to carry out during the activity. Explosive strength exercises, which may include sprint drills or jumps, gently increase the level of intensity and prepare the body for sudden movements in the game which will follow; these exercises should only be done once the muscles are warm; this will prevent injuries.

Effects of the warm-up

The warm-up should gently prepare the body for exercises by gradually increasing the heart rate and circulation; this will loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles. Stretching the muscles prepares them for physical activity and prevents injuries. The warm-up is also a good opportunity for an individual to prepare themselves mentally for the game ahead and for a team to work together prior to the start of the game. Warm-ups can also be used to practice skills and team drills.

How long should a warm up last?

Most warm up sessions last between 20 minutes and half an hour; this given the body plenty of time to gradually get ready for physical activity and gives the player time to prepare themselves mentally.

Preventing injury

The most important reason for doing a warm up is to prevent injury during exercise; keeping the muscles warm will prevent acute injuries such as hamstring strains and will stave off overuse injuries by allowing the body to prepare steadily and safely. In more static sports, such as cricket, it is a good idea to stretch throughout the game as this will keep the muscles warm and allow them to function effectively; substitutes should also continue to run and stretch while they are waiting to join a game; this is commonly seen in football matches where the substitutes jog, jump and stretch along the sidelines.

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