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To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance

updated

Tags: stretch, sports, injury, prevention, movement, exercise, self-treatment, treatment, muscle, pain problems

One article on PainSci cites McHugh 2010: 5 Main Reasons Athletes Stretch… All Flawed

PainSci notes on McHugh 2010:

This is a wide-ranging review, but my interest in it was primarily regarding injury prevention. The authors' conclusions optimistic but based mainly on speculation, and they characterize the evidence as limited: “For example, there is a good rationale for why stretching could impact the risk of sustaining a muscle strain injury, but the effect of stretching on muscle strain injuries has not been adequately researched in sports with a high incidence of muscle strains.”

That was just six years prior to the more negative conclusions of Behm et al (authored by some of the same experts), with almost no relevant new evidence in the interim. Nearly identical inadequate evidence reviewed … notably different conclusions. That jumped out at me.

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

Stretching is commonly practiced before sports participation; however, effects on subsequent performance and injury prevention are not well understood. There is an abundance of literature demonstrating that a single bout of stretching acutely impairs muscle strength, with a lesser effect on power. The extent to which these effects are apparent when stretching is combined with other aspects of a pre-participation warm-up, such as practice drills and low intensity dynamic exercises, is not known. With respect to the effect of pre-participation stretching on injury prevention a limited number of studies of varying quality have shown mixed results. A general consensus is that stretching in addition to warm-up does not affect the incidence of overuse injuries. There is evidence that pre-participation stretching reduces the incidence of muscle strains but there is clearly a need for further work. Future prospective randomized studies should use stretching interventions that are effective at decreasing passive resistance to stretch and assess effects on subsequent injury incidence in sports with a high prevalence of muscle strains.

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