Hi

 

Being able to determine differences between limbs (e.g. in strength, balance or flexibility) is very important. Too often both the tests, and the treatments/exercises, used consider both legs as being equivalent. So they do double leg squats, and sit and reach for flexibility. But most athletes have a dominant leg, and jump off one leg, and may only have injured one side. So it is very important to have ways of comparing one leg against another. And the speedflexer allows this in a quick and simple way.

 

It is also important to be able to identify specific hamstring flexibility – as opposed to just touching your toes – which involves your back and hips and not just your hamstrings. And the speedflexer allows this in a quick and simple way.

 

We know that deficits in flexibility between legs are worth being aware of, and that they can be addressed using many different exercise programmes (not just stretching, but also for example a gradually progressive strength training programme). Monitoring flexibility might be particularly useful to watch for early signs of overtraining, under recovery, or sudden changes related to adolescent growth spurts for example.

 

We also know that the degree of flexibility will vary according to the demands and training of athletes. For example, the elite dancers we measured had an average flexibility of 91degrees…and some a lot higher…

 

 

Dr. Kieran O’Sullivan

PhD M Manip Ther B Physio SMISCP MISOM

Lecturer,

Department of Clinical Therapies,

University of Limerick

@kieranosull / @paineddotcom

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SpeedFlexer

 

Sit & Reach

 

The graph below shows the comparisons between using the Sit and Reach box and the SpeedFlexer.

A study of 32 students – check student number 3, 16 and 25.

Student number 3 achieved 20 in the Sit and Reach, which is excellent, yet when you measure it on the SpeedFlexer he had only 65 on his left leg and 85 on his right leg which is a massive imbalance of 20.

Student number 16 was the best at Sit and Reach at 28, he has only 75 on his left leg using the SpeedFlexer. He balanced but was still short of the magic number 90.

Look at student number 25; who was quite good on the SpeedFlexer but was way down on Sit and Reach at just 12.

SpeedFlexer gives a reading of each leg in isolation, and shows any imbalance.

Imbalances is the biggest cause of injuries.

To increase your speed, you need to increase your flexibility.

 

GRAPH SHOWING A SERIES OF 10 PLAYERS WHO SCORED 20 ON THE SIT AND REACH TEST BUT ON THE SPEEDFLEXER TESTING APPARATUS THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE MUCH CLEARER IDENTIFIED AND PROBLEM AREAS BETTER ILLUSTRATED.

 

GRAPH SHOWING THE SCORES OF 10 PLAYERS WHO SCORED VERY HIGH SCORES (BETWEEN 22 AND 28) ON THE SIT AND REACH TEST. IN THE SPEEDFLEXER TEST ONLY ONE REACHED THE REQUIRED 90 DEGREES AND THAT WAS ON ONE LEG (PLAYER 8 RIGHT LEG).

 

GRAPH SHOWING 5 PLAYERS WHO SCORED VERY SIMILAR LOW ON THE SIT AND REACH TEST AND ARE CLEARLY IDENTIFIED AS BEING VERY DIFFERENT WITH THE USE OF THE SPEEDFLEXER TEST.

LOOK AT PLAYER    1          LOOK AT PLAYER    5

 

Quick Comparison Graph

       2 Players equal             2 Players very good    2 Players poor        Desired flexibility

       at Sit and Reach Test    at Sit & Reach Test      at Sit & Reach Test        for Sport

 

 

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University of Limerick Statement about the SpeedFlexer

 

3.5 Instrumentation

Hamstring flexibility was measured using The Speed Flexer Device. Developer: Ned Burns © 2010 JFC Manufacturing Limited Ireland. Currently no gold standard measurement technique for hamstring flexibility exists (Foreman et al 2006) and various measurement techniques are utilised in to measure hamstring flexibility in clinical practice. Although currently no validation for this device exits, this device was chosen due to its practicality, simplicity of use and potential for future use in the sporting field.
 
The relationship between previous hamstring injury and hamstring muscle flexibility in male adolescent Gaelic footballers
Authors: Michael Costello, Dr Amanda Clifford, Dr Amanda O Connell
 

Clinical Implications

The results from this study propose some interesting implications for clinical practice. Interesting findings in relation to variations in hamstring flexibility between different age groups in adolescence were observed. Gaelic footballers in the later stages of adolescence had significantly reduced hamstring flexibility when compared to younger players and this may predispose them to a greater risk of hamstring injuries.
 
Although age cannot be altered, this may be a specific population to whom stretching or eccentric exercise programmes may prove beneficial, whereby it could improve flexibility and thus potentially reduce risk of hamstring injuries. If future studies confirm the validation and reliability of The Speed Flexor device, it may be a useful resource to this population to regularly monitor hamstring flexibility themselves, without the need for assistance of health care clinicians due to its simplicity and ease of use.
 

Flexibility can enhance your performance of most sports

The first issue to address is dynamic range of motion. If an inflexible athlete can improve dynamic flexibility by just one inch per stride (fixing nothing else) the athlete can make monumental improvements in their speed. All other things being equal, taking less steps over the same distance will get you there faster.
 

Tying the FMS into Speed Training: The Active Straight Leg Raise
By Jared Wooleve

 
If you’re familiar with the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), the active straight leg raise screen (ASLR) is extremely important to look at before developing speed.  The active straight leg raise is a screen to look at hip extension and hip flexion happening simultaneously.
 
The  Active Straight Leg Raise is looking to see if you can control your spinal position while you flex one hip with the opposite hip staying in extension.  This is exactly what running is, except on the ground.  When we run, one of our feet will strike the ground, apply force into the ground, and finally transfer the force from the ground into speed by extending through the ankle, knee, and hip simultaneously.  In order to be fast, we need to be able to flex one hip while keeping the other in extension without moving the spine.  If we can all agree that the Active Straight Leg Raise is important in developing an athlete, the big question is… what do we do about it.
 
Now let’s talk a little about speed training.  If an athlete has a straight leg raise dysfunction, they are not going to be as explosive off the line as they could be.
 

You Must Build Football Speed Specific Flexibility

Simple. If your hamstrings, hip flexors or hips are tight, you won’t be fast. Tight Hip Flexors have been called “breaks.” If you want to get faster for football, go stretch and improve  your flexibility. - Raphael Brandon. S&C Coach to Pro & Olympic athletes PhD Head
 

Injury and flexibility

For example, one study showed that those who stretched regularly suffered fewer injuries, while another showed that tighter players suffered more groin-strain injuries, and a third showed a relationship between tightness and knee pain.
 
These findings seem to confirm the correlation between muscular tightness and increased muscle-strain risks.. On the other hand, one study of sprinters found that 4° less hip flexion led to a greater incidence of hamstring strain. The reason for these apparently findings is the specific nature of each sport. With endurance running, the ankle, knee and hip joints stay within the mid-range of motion throughout the whole gait cycle and therefore maximum static ROM will have little effect. Sprinting and football involve movements of much larger ROM and so depend more heavily on good flexibility.
 
Poor flexibility in the hip flexor muscles may lead to an anterior pelvic tilt, where the pelvis is tilted down to the front. This increases the lumbar lordosis, which is the sway in the lower back. This in turn can lead to a tightening of the lower-back muscles and predispose the back to injury.
 
A flexibility/injury relationship also exists for young adolescents. During the pubertal growth spurt, the tendons and muscles tighten dramatically as they lag behind the rapid bone growth. For young athletes this poor flexibility may lead to injury problems, especially tendinitis-type injuries such as Osgood Schlatters. Thus regular stretching is essential for young athletes. Remember it is biological age that counts, so children in the same team or squad may need to pay extra attention to flexibility at different times
Don’t overdo it!
 
As a general guide, when it comes to preventing injury, one should make sure that athletes have a normal ROM is all the major muscle groups and correct postural alignment in the back. For instance, hamstring mobility should allow for 90° of straight-leg hip flexion. Any further ROM should be developed only if analysis of the sport’s movements suggests that extra mobility is required.

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Speedflexer Team

Ned Burns

Ned is the creator of the SpeedFlexer. He has worked with various schools and sports organisations in Ireland.

One of the main problems he noticed was the lack of flexibility in children, teenagers and adults. He identified the need to accurately record how flexible people's legs are. This has resulted in the SpeedFlexer.

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Conor Hayes

Conor is a former Galway hurler who won three All-Ireland winning medals with his County, twice as captain.

He then went on to manage the Galway Senior hurling team, and is still involved in coaching and training.

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Dr. Liam Hennessy

Dr. Hennessy is a leading coaching and fitness expert in Setanta College, Dublin.

He is a sports physiologist, and is currently the National Fitness Director of the IRFU. Liam is also Padraig Harringtons fitness adviser and coach.

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