by Erik Dalton, PhD
Range of motion and flexibility—or lack of it—can really affect athletic performance. It’s generally accepted that increasing ROM through assisted stretching and deep tissue routines helps improve athletic performance. However, randomly applied stretching maneuvers should be approached with care. New research conducted by Riddel et al, (2004) has linked stretching to an increase in musculotendinous injuries. Riddel’s group discovered a higher incidence of neck, low back and hamstring pain in subjects when various stretching and deep tissue techniques were applied…especially in athletics with a history of previous injuries. A significant number of those subjects were also found to be hypermobile.
A couple of things can be done to avoid exasperating a client’s symptoms. First, practitioners must develop subtle palpation skills to differentiate quality, range and end-feel when assessing various soft tissues such as ligaments, muscles, fascia, and particularly joint capsules. Mentally ask yourself…during end-range of motion, does this tissue have a boggy, leathery, spasmodic, or hard end-feel? When comparing side-to-side, are there areas of bind in one limb and greater ease of movement in the other?