Does Stretching Help to Prevent Injuries?

Does Stretching Help to Prevent Injuries?

A personal trainer helps with stretching exercises.

Research has showed that static stretching is no longer the best option…

Many athletes and casual exercises assume that stretching before and after a fitness workout helps prevent injury. However, a growing body of research suggests

that stretching can actually do more harm than good. A recent study by USA Track and Field is the latest evidence against the common practice of static stretching.

The Track and

Field study followed nearly 1,400 runners between the ages of 13 and 60. One group did not stretch prior to running, while the second group stretched prior to running. The stretching group was instructed to hold stretches for

20 seconds each, a stretching technique known as static stretching.

Over the three months that researchers tracked the athletes, 16% of runners in the non-stretching

group became injured. Interestingly, the exact same percentage of athletes in the stretching group also became injured. The research clearly suggests that stretching does not prevent or

induce injury, but the study also provided one surprising result. The people most likely to get injured were those who were used to stretching but took part in the non-stretching group. 23% of these athletes ended up injured.

These results might surprise many fitness enthusiasts, who have been told for years that stretching prevents injuries. The myth of stretching is so prevalent that researchers had a difficult time finding volunteers to sign up for the non-stretching group.

While this study proves that stretching does not prevent or cause injuries, most researchers agree that static stretching can be a hindrance to athletic performance. The problem with static stretching, it seems, is that stretching cause the muscle to become overextended. As a protective reflex, muscle movement

and power is inhibited. Studies show that athletes who stretch prior to a game cannot jump as high as those who do not stretch.

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So what should athletes do? Should they avoid stretching altogether? Not quite. Doctors say that the ideal warm-up involves dynamic stretching, rather than traditional static stretching. Dynamic stretches alternate between short stretches and warm-up activities, such as extending the leg followed by marching in place. This type of stretching allows the muscles to warm-up without becoming overextended.

Doctors caution to switch stretching plans with caution. If you currently practice static stretching, shift slowly into dynamic stretching. As seen in the Track and Field study, and quick change to routine can cause injury. But whether you are a casual fitness enthusiast or a serious athlete, say goodbye to sleepy stretching and try a more dynamic routine to improve your performance.

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