I was recently approached by a local youth basketball coach who asked “I have heard so much about the importance of proper warm up before practice and games, but what about cool down?” What a great question. Though I often inform my patients and athletes about the importance of proper stretching and cooling down after working out, I had never been asked by a coach how to properly cool down his or her team. Here are the 3 keys to proper cool down.
1.) Injury Prevention
At the end of practice or following games is the perfect time to do a few exercises to help reduce the likelihood for injury. Most non contact injuries, be it ankle sprains or ACL tears, occur when athletes are fatigued. Performing some simple balance exercises can help improve control and reduce the likelihood for injury.
Single Leg Balance:
Simply standing on one leg will help with balance and neuromuscular control. Focus should be on proper alignment, keeping knee in line with the foot and maintaining an athletic position.
Balance and Reach:
Balancing while reaching out with the other leg challenges balance and control even further. Focus should continue to be on maintaining proper alignment and control with the balance leg.
2.) Light Static Stretching
Doing some light static stretching is a key part of proper cool down, particularly with youth athletes. Youth athletes are often going through “growth spurts” where the athlete’s muscle length doesn’t always keep up with bone growth. This often leads to problems such as Sever’s disease (heel pain) or Osgood-schlatter’s (knee pain). Here are a couple of stretches that can help with this.
The third key to proper cool down is performing some deep breathing. During practice and games athlete’s sympathetic nervous system gets fired up. This is the fight or flight response of the nervous system that can is helpful when in stressful or competitive situations, but can leave the athlete feeling anxious or stressed after. Taking 10-15 deep breaths will help athletes “wind down” and get in a more relaxed state of mind. This is also a great opportunity for the coach to talk about the positive things that happened during the practice or game.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything that should be included in a cool down, but a few items that can be easily implemented. For more information on this subject please refer to Mike Robertson at http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/. He does a great job of getting really in depth about this subject. For more info on breathing, which is helpful both in training and daily life, Brett Jones does a great job reviewing it in the video that can be found here: http://www.functionalmovement.com/articles/Screening/2015-08-19_breathing_corrective_strategies_techniques.