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22 February 2011
Little benefit to stretching before running

Stretching before a run neither prevents nor causes injury, according to a surprising new study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Tens-of-millions of people worldwide run recreationally or competitively and for many, stretching is an important part of their workout.

The new study included 2,729 runners who ran upwards of 10 miles per week. Half were randomized to a stretch group and half were randomized to a non-stretch group before running. The runners in the stretch group stretched their quadriceps, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius/soleus muscle groups. The entire routine took 3 to 5 minutes and was performed immediately before running.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that stretching before running neither prevents nor causes injury. Rather, the most significant risk factors for injury were:

  • A history of chronic injury or injury in the past four months.
  • A higher body mass index.
  • Switching pre-run stretching routines (runners who normally stretch stopping and those who did stretch starting to stretch before running).

"As a runner myself, I thought stretching before a run would help to prevent injury," said Daniel Pereles, study author and orthopaedic surgeon from Montgomery Orthopedics. "However, we found that the risk for injury was the same for men and women, whether or not they were high or low mileage runners, and across all age groups. But, the more mileage run or the heavier and older the runner was, the more likely he or she was likely to get injured, and previous injury within four months predisposed to even further injury."

The most common injuries sustained were groin pulls, foot/ankle injuries, and knee injuries. There was no significant difference in injury rates between the runners who stretched and the runners who didn't for any specific injury location or diagnosis.

"Although all runners switching routines were more likely to experience an injury than those who did not switch, the group that stopped stretching had more reported injuries, implying that an immediate shift in a regimen may be more important than the regimen itself," Pereles said in conclusion.

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Source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

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