Sunday, October 3, 2010

Does stretching prevent injuries?

By: Michael Donikian, NASM-CPT, USA Certified Triathlon Coach

The short answer is no. There has been a great deal of research on the subject including a recent study conducted by USA Track & Field (USATF). For the most part, these studies show that a pre-exercise stretch routine provides no injury-prevention benefit (nor does it cause any harm).

Does this mean you should stop stretching? No, for two reasons:

1) The USATF study showed that athletes who had a stretch routine but were then randomly assigned into a "no stretch" group for the purpose of the study were more likely to develop injuries than those who did not switch regimens. The study implies that any drastic changes in routine can lead to injuries (not surprising at all). When starting any new training program be sure to gradually build up to it.

2) It depends on the type of stretching routine used. Most studies use a static stretch routine which is considered the least effective type of stretching. In addition they use a very broad stretching routine that targets all muscles equally whether they need stretching or not. I see stretching as a precision tool designed to be used on tight muscles or muscles with limited mobility not as some sort of generic warmup. You know that saying.. when your only tool is a hammer you tend to see all problems as nails.

I would like to propose a study as follows. Create three randomly assigned groups. One group will be assigned the "no-stretch" warmup, one group is assigned a generic stretch routine as a warmup, while the final group is assigned a coach who will design a custom stretch/warmup protocol for each athlete using a combination of dynamic stretching, PNF* stretching, and light cardio warmups. The athletes in the latter group will also conduct regular check-ins with their coach who will modify the warmup protocol over time to meet the stretch needs of the athlete. The coach will provide no other guidance.

The aim of my proposed study will be to not only show the merit of stretching vs non-stretching but to also show the merit of a targeted stretch/warmup protocol designed by a trained coach.

Absent this proposed study, my general recommendation for injury prevention is to begin every workout with a light cardio warmup and some foam rolling. I then like to throw in some dynamic stretching or other dynamic warmup drills before beginning my workout. I like to end all workouts with a light cooldown followed by some icing. Avoid heat as it promotes inflammation, which will only further aggravate any injury. As always please consult your coach before making any change to your workout routine.

*Dynamic Stretching and PNF Stretching are two types of more advanced stretching protocols that involve movement through the stretch. Both these types of stretching have extensive research searchable on

No comments:

Post a Comment