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Tips for Preventing Early-Season Injuries

In late February, Century College ― a junior college located in White Bear Lake, Minnesota ― enjoyed the honor of playing in the first college baseball game ever at U.S. Bank Stadium, the new indoor home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Coach Dwight Kotila’s Wood Ducks were understandably exhilarated.
“Just walking into the stadium and seeing the facility from the inside, on field level, it was very impressive,” said Kotila, a veteran of 20 college coaching seasons. “The field plays big, like a minor-league or major-league ballpark.”

Some coaches might’ve feared seeing their left-fielder pull a hamstring while chasing down a fly ball in that early season contest, or witnessing their first baseman strain an abdominal muscle while diving for a scalded hit down the line. But not Kotila. After all, Century College’s accomplished coach (who also teaches in the school’s Physical Education/Health/Sport Management Department) knew his players had their bodies well-prepared for a return to regular-season action. 

Century College employs a strength-training program throughout much of the year, in an effort to aid players’ recovery from intense activity. The Wood Ducks’ training regimen includes ample amounts of dynamic stretching, too.

“There’s obviously two types of stretching you can do,” noted Kotila, who has led Century to three of the last four NJCAA III World Series. “You can do static stretching, which is like … when we’re all in grade school, and you stand there and touch your toes. The dynamic warmup is more incorporated with stretching while your body’s moving ― you do things like walking lunges, high-knee crossovers.

“We do (dynamic stretching) before every practice,” the coach added. “Because that stretching helps increase the blood-flow through the body, it helps bring the nutrients to the muscle tissue that’s been broken down. It helps the recovery period, too.” 

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Over his two decades in college coaching, Kotila has developed some other firm beliefs when it comes to injury prevention. He’s especially adamant in his belief in having players ice sore body parts after intense action, for example.

“I’m a firm believer that you need to cool down the muscle tissue that’s been worked,” the coach noted. 

During games, Kotila often has Wood Ducks players utilize foam rollers to stretch out tight quadriceps or hamstrings.

In those in-game situations, the coach feels “the more you can keep that muscle tissue warmed up and keep the blood flowing through it, the less risk for injury there is.”

Perhaps most importantly, Kotila believes in a consistent, virtually year-round workout program that employs stretching. That philosophy will prevent most early season muscle pulls. 

“I think the most common mistakes I’ve seen in my 20 years of coaching really comes down to not doing enough stretching and preventative care before (players) play,” Kotila said. “Players are so amped up and excited to play that when they go through their pregame warmup routine … they go through things a bit too quickly, thinking that their body’s ready to go. 

“Where players get in trouble is when they just go out and try to go 100-percent speed, and then all of a sudden they pull a quad or pull a hamstring,” the coach concluded. “And then they’re down sometimes up to three to five weeks.”

Going through proper warmups, doing proper stretching, and concentrating on preventative care. Keeping those elements in mind will help keep players healthy and on the diamond from preseason practices until deep into summer.

If players pay heed to those keys, said Kotila “they’ll see less injuries and quicker recovery time.”

From GameChanger and Kelly Beaton

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