Yonatan Kaplan headshot.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There is some research that supports the claim that stretching is effective at
Such an opinion maintains that stretching prevents
injuries because it increases the flexibility of muscles, which makes muscle
contractions smoother, thereby reducing injuries.
Others have found that
stretching was also effective when it was when it was combined with a
Some scientists recommend that stretching is most effective when
done within 15 minutes of engaging in physical activity.
has found that stretching helps to lower the risk of musculotendinous
Conversely, there are several studies that reported that
stretching does not help prevent injuries. One study found that general fitness
was more important in injury prevention than stretching.
When it comes to
stretching itself, some studies have found that stretching can actually hurt
muscle strength and reduce power.
Other scientists discovered that when
stretching was added after warming up, it did not lower the incidence of
injuries that resulted from overuse.
The extra flexibility in rangeof-
motion was reported to not be as beneficial as initially thought, and was found
to lead to injury as well as to impede performance.
investigations found that static stretching did not reduce the prevalence of
injuries caused by exercise and only one found that it helped reduce
Another researcher testified that when stretching is done either
before or after physical activity, it does not aid in the prevention of muscle
soreness and did not reduce the risk of injury.
Among the postulated
reasons that stretching before exercise would not prevent injuries are the
following: 1. In animal studies, it was found that when muscles were heated up
(for instance, by a hot pack), this resulted in tissues rupturing more
2. Certain activities (such as jogging) do not require extremely
long muscles so stretching is unnecessary.
3. Most often, muscle strain
occurs during activities that put pressure on the muscles, forcing them to
elongate, such as slowly stepping down off of a step.
4. Stretching has
been found to bring about damage at the cytoskeleton level.
One of the
biggest problems with the literature on stretching is that many studies contain
fatal design flaws.
Many of them did not distinguish between the types of
physical activity performed when they examined the effect of stretching on
This is an important factor that should not be
One researcher found that when studies differentiated between
different types of physical activity, the effect of stretching depended on the
type of activity performed.
For instance, certain activities such as
gymnastics or dancing require stretching beforehand and therefore, stretching
led to an increase in performance capabilities.
However, for activities
such as jogging or cycling, which require less flexibility, there was found to
be no positive effect of stretching. (It should be noted that there wasn’t a
negative effect found either.) While some studies did not distinguish between
the type of physical activity performed, others found that several studies did
not differentiate between type of injury incurred.
This factor is also
extremely important. Many studies did not differentiate between sprain, strain,
All of this makes information from studies rather
confusing and therefore it is problematic to draw conclusions from faulty
A general conclusion reached by nearly all researchers was that
there needs to be more research done in this area to clarify as to whether or
not stretching reduces, increases or is ineffective when it comes to injury
This is one of the most heavily debated issues in sports
medicine and while I would wish to give a definitive answer, it appears that it
would be more realistic to conclude that more research really needs to be
Only once there is research that distinguishes between
different types of injuries, as well as different types of athletic activities,
with proper definitions and carefully constructed investigations, can proper and
most importantly, accurate conclusions be drawn.
For the time being it
appears that there is more evidence supporting that stretching is not as
effective as it commonly thought.The above information is supplied by
Yonatan Kaplan PT PhD (Candidate). Director, Jerusalem Sports Medicine
Institute, Lerner Sports Center, Hebrew University.
For further details,
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, call Yonatan at 054-463-9463 or visit