It turns out that stretching neither hurts nor helps runners in the race to avoid injury, according to a new study.
But there's a catch: researchers say those who already stretch before running should continue their current routines.
The project will be presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The randomized study focused on approximately 2,700 runners who racked up 10 or more miles per week each.
In the experiment, one group of runners was instructed to stretch before running in efforts to limber quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscle groups. These static pre-run stretching routines lasted for a total of three to five minutes. The other group was instructed to forgo stretching before runs.
After collecting data for three months, the team discovered no significant differences in injuries between the two groups, indicating that stretching didn't make much of a difference in preventing injury.
They did notice, however, that individuals who used pre-run stretches before the study who were randomly assigned to the non-stretch group nearly doubled their risk of injury while running. In this context, researchers defined an injury as any condition that hindered an individual from running for more than one week.
Other factors closely associated with risk of injury included past injuries, a higher Body Mass Index as well as changing from a stretching routine to a non-stretching one.
The findings confirm what other researchers have speculated: static stretching may not be the best way to enhance athletic performance and reduce injury. It's not clear where warm-ups fit into the picture, though.
It's also important to keep in mind that these findings have not undergone the peer-review process.
For now, chat with your doctor or trainer about stretching routines, especially if you've had injuries in the past.
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