Does Stretching Help Reduce Injuries
The USATF (USA Track and Field) just released a study that claims stretching before a run does not reduce the risk of injuries. Per usual, the USATF is behind on the latest developments in scientific research as even I have reported that pre-run stretching does not help reduce injuries. In a study published in 2000, almost 10 years ago, Dr. Herbert Pope concluded that stretching before physical activity had no effect on injury frequency in athletes (Med Sci Sports Exercise, 2000; 32 (2): 271-277).
Some interesting findings from the USATF study include: (1) mileage and level of competition do not affect injury rates; (2) gender does not affect injury rates; but (3) body mass index, how much someone weighs, has a significant affect on injury frequency. I’m not surprised with the findings on body mass index, but I am very surprised about the results regarding mileage and competition. It would seem that the more you run, the more likely you are to get injured; however, this doesn’t seem to be the case. As with all studies, it will take further analysis to examine the scientific method to determine if the results are statistically significant and the variables properly isolated and operationalized.
One topic the study did not cover was the affect of post run stretching. It is my belief that post run stretching significantly reduces injuries when done right. I would have liked to see a comparison study to post run stretching or included it in the variables.
As with any scientific study, sometimes science doesn’t match-up with what an athlete feels. While I believe in the merits of science, coaching is about relating science to what an athlete feels and experiences during their training. Scientific studies can tell us that stretching doesn’t help, but I know that when I go for a run and I have a tight quad or my legs are feeling extra lethargic on the day, a quick stop for 2 or 3 minutes to stretch makes me feel more limber and ready to run fast. So, don’t throw out all your stretching routines yet, do what works best for you.