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Effect of stretching on prevention of injuries

Effect of stretching on prevention of injuries

One of the main questions raised by people involved in sports concerns the effects of stretching on prevention of injuries.According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, injuries that occur in sports activities, despite the discomfort brought in the athlete, have also an economic impact on society, costing annually over $28 billion (visits to doctors, hospitalization, operations, physiotherapies, emergency room visits, et.al). In addition to that, studies have shown that athletic-related injuries are a major cause of osteoarthritis (Emery et al, 2007).

Studies have shown that athletic-related injuries are a major cause of osteoarthritis Click To Tweet Like our stories? Stay updated:

Therefore, it is highly needed to find ways to reduce the occurrence of such injuries. Prevention is one way. Below, we examine whether stretching prior training can help.

Based on a systematic literature review written in 2014, by Julia Lewis, we arrive at the conclusion that there’s a lesser chance of injury for people who stretch before the workout, as opposed to people who don’t stretch.

Stretching as part of warm-up

In continuation of the above, when stretching is included as part of your warm-up, it should be done with caution, to prevent overstretching. This means that stretch should stop at the point pain is felt.  (Hartig & Henderson, Am J of Sports Med 1999, Pope et al. Med and Sci in Sports and Exercise1999).

Therefore, ballistic stretches are preferred to static for warm-up, as the later when employed prior training can even increase the risk of injury (Weldon, Hill, Manual Therapy 2003).

On the opposite, according to clinical research, if performed after training, static stretches can help with prevention of muscle damage (f.ex. Fractures).

Adjust stretching methods

To be more specific, stretching methods must be sport-specific in order to be successful in reducing the likelihood of injury. You should work on specific muscle groups. By this way, you prepare the “high at risk of injury” muscles to tolerate intense activity.

General Warm-up

Even a general warm -up before training can decrease injury occurrence.

Even a general warm -up before training can decrease injury occurrence. Click To Tweet

Useful tips for stretching

To sum up, here are some useful tips on stretching:

  • Static stretches should be performed at the end of the workout, so to optimize stretching benefits and prevent injuries.
  • It has been noticed that 3 sets of 30sec static stretches can lead to muscle lengthening. The effects last up to 24 hours after stretching. (Weijer et al, 2003).
References:
1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons ( 2013 ).
Research priorities for the unifi ed orthopaedic research agenda . Retrieved June 19, 2014, from http://www.aaos.org/research/documents/URA_Public.pdf
2. Emery , C. A. , Rose , M. S. , McAllister , J. R. , & Meeuwisse , W. H. ( 2007 ). A prevention strategy to reduce the incidence of injury in high school basketball: A cluster randomized controlled trial . Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine , 17 ( 1 ), 17.
3. Julia Lewis (2014). A systematic literature review of the relationship between stretching and athletic injury prevention. Orthopedic nursing. Volume 33, number 6.
4. de Weijer VC, Gorniak GC, Shamus E. The effect of static stretch and warm-up exercise on hamstring length over the course of 24 hours. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2003; 33 (12):727-33

About the author

Lefteris Voulgaris

Physiotherapist

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