No to football, yes to yoga

How physios deal with coaches' and players' whims. And your other questions answered

Rahul Dravid warms up with some yoga during the conditioning camp in Bangalore
Yoga offers physical exercise and mental relaxation © AFP
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Would you recommend yoga as a part of a cricketer's training schedule? asked LB Mandal
I am a big fan of cross training for any sportsperson, and yoga offers so much more than just a physical stretching session. The focus required during a yoga session delivers added benefits of relaxation and a meditative effect on the body. Controlled breathing techniques, or pranayama, can, in my opinion, also help target the deep core muscles of the trunk, if performed correctly. I think we will be seeing this aspect of yoga become quite contemporary in the future as more research is undertaken to show its benefit. But, as with all exercise, there are some asanas or yogic poses that I would be careful about before prescribing. Lumbar hyperextensions are one example of a movement that could aggravate a fast bowler's back if performed with poor guidance, but on the whole, a cricketer would generally benefit tremendously. Yoga does require ongoing practice and the odd session every now and again probably won't bring the same full benefits as adopting it as a part of one's lifestyle.

The Indian cricket team used yoga during their camps when I was there, and I had the pleasure of being tutored by BKS Iyengar himself. I learned a lot in a short period of time and still apply a lot of his principles today in my clinical practice.

We've begun playing club cricket in England in the bitter cold and rainy weather this year. Are there any specific warm-up routines designed for cold weather? Does the body need more stretching? And how do I stay warm on the field without burning the stumps for a bonfire? asked Max Cadogan
Sitting here in India's heat and humidity at the moment, I am experiencing the exact opposite conditions! In fact, I was just chatting the other day about the term "warm-ups". Maybe it needs to be phased out and replaced with "facilitation". If you consider that the idea of "warming up" is to prepare oneself for intense skilled activity then what you really want to do is prime the motor patterns that you want to use, including the neural pathways and musculoskeletal structures, in addition to the more obvious cardio-respiratory responses. In the heat over here, you aren't so much "warming up" the body as it is already at operating temperature just by sitting in the dressing room.

The term "dynamic warm-up" is probably more appropriate for all conditions in this regard. So do away with any static stretching that you may be doing on the ground and just move. Research still doesn't tell us that static stretching is of any performance or injury prevention benefit. In fact, it may even produce a temporary weakening in the muscles immediately afterwards.

So in your colder climate, start with movements such as squats, lunges and twists, run-throughs, heels to bum, high skips, bridging, burpees and so on - these all work the large multi-segmental trunk and lower-body muscle groups and will generate a lot of body heat. The more muscle you use, the more heat is generated. Theraband rotations for the shoulders, press-ups and medicine ball throws will also work the upper body and trunk. This will initially get you warm for the match, but to remain loose try layering clothes, and use those hand-warmer pouches in your pockets. Being an active fielder, backing up everything will not only keep you warmer but might help you save a few runs in the field too!

What do you do when a player insists on declaring himself fit against your advice? The media probably blames you if he breaks down early, doesn't it? asked Kriti
Control the controllable. You can't influence what the media says, unfortunately. At any level of sports, if a player wants to declare himself fit against your more educated judgement, then it's totally his call. However, an important part of the medico's job is to explain to the player why you don't think he is ready and make your opinion clear to all stakeholders. He needs to be educated or informed as to why you think he is putting his body or the recovering injury at risk. Once he has all of the information, if he still decides to risk it, you can't really stop him. Trust between the medico and the player is critical.

Often the player equates a lack of pain in an injury with full function, but having knowledge of the underlying tissue healing times can help. Hamstring strains, for example, have a known high recurrence rate, especially in the first two weeks after return to sport. It might be that the fibrous scarring develops before any muscle cell repair. Thus the scar holds everything together but the muscle remains weak. Objective testing for strength or video replay of function might give you more information, which will help to enlighten the player and make them sit out for another week and further strengthen the muscle, thus preventing another strain. Many times a player might think he is moving well but only when he sees himself on video does he realise he is not completely rehabilitated. The body adapts quickly to avoiding pain with antalgic movement, i.e., often we don't know we are limping until it's pointed out to us. Most injuries also have specific functional tests that can be used to help determine readiness. Just remember, however, that these principles apply for a musculoskeletal injury. For a head or medical injury a player should never overrule the medico. Often the extent of the underlying trauma or pathology is not apparent immediately and can be exacerbated by an early return to the game. Mental toughness is a good quality to succeed in sport but stupidity can shorten a career.

Do you think it's okay for cricketers to play football, volleyball or other sports during practice? Could it be a worry for you from an injury angle? asked Roz007
It is absolutely a worry, and if I have any influence over warm-up games I would make the trainer and coach think twice. I once had a first-class coach who allowed football as part of the warm-up until he ended up spraining his own ankle. After that he swallowed his pride and has never asked for football again. Many high-profile players have got injured before the start of international matches because of football or some other competitive running game. An avoidable injury to a key player could potentially influence the outcome of the match or a series.

Jeetan Patel shelters from the cold and wet, Kent v New Zealanders, Canterbury, April 29, 2008
Freezing cold? Keep movin' © Getty Images

Do you think professional footballers warm up by playing cricket? Absolutely not. I agree that there is a certain repetition on long tours and keeping the interest is challenging. Volleyball is perhaps a better option but even this isn't casualty-free. I remember Zaheer Khan landing awkwardly from a volleyball spike one day, jarring his lower back and missing an ODI. Yuvraj Singh has also been a victim of ball games during a warm-up.

If you are a trainer looking for warm-up ideas then you need to consider risk management - do the risks outweigh the benefits of entertaining the players for ten minutes?

How does a physio keep himself fit and relaxed during a gruelling schedule like the IPL? Because from the way you described it, you have no off days. asked Jason Finch
I am not going to deny that it's a busy gig for both the physio and the trainer. You have to be available before, during and after practices, which is a bigger time commitment than what the other coaching staff and players need to give. Despite this, if managed properly, there are always going to be opportunities for R&R. Most of my colleagues on tour have their own personal fitness goals and manage to schedule in at least an hour a day. Time management and planning is the key, creating windows where blocks of time are scheduled for the players, practices, travel and matches.

For example, on arrival at a new hotel, the baggage generally takes an hour to arrive after us. Knowing this, if training gear is carried in your hand baggage then a gym session can be squeezed in immediately. Similarly, after a match the players rarely rise early, so time is available then as well. The occasional massage at the hotel also helps.

I feel that one of the bigger issues is not so much the time for training but the maintenance of healthy and nutritious diet. Hotel food is generally cooked for taste, not health, and even when specific instructions are given to the kitchen, food more often than not arrives with a drizzle of oil or gravy or butter, with veggies being cooked to death or a large serving of chips on the side. Not being able to go down to the supermarket to buy fresh products and cook one's own food is probably the biggest frustration.

Send in your questions using our feedback form or in comments below. Andrew Leipus will answer the best ones every month


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Posted by Ashok on (May 20, 2012, 21:18 GMT)

An excellent educative article for the sportsmen. I especially like the bit about football being used to have a "funa warm up" before the cricket match. I agree 100% with you that it is highly detrimental form of warming up causing joint injuries as well as sprains. There were quite a few cricketers including Indians, who were injured via this "Fun" football. I personally feel that any form of fun football be banned before a cricket match. Every sport needs strengthening special muscles. Trying to use one "fun" sport before starting another sport is a dangerous way. Yoga of course streches all types of muscles and hence is useful for all sports. Since sportsmen cannot use yogic asanas in its entire form, some modified formats of yogasanas are included in most athletic warm ups. It would be an excellent idea to formalize a special set of warm up excercises for bowlers, Batsmen & fielders, as are used in Major League Baseball in Canada, USA & world wide.

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 20, 2012, 14:57 GMT)

This is an interesting article!

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