Stretching before running might not be beneficial

Runners, is the pre-run stretch a thing of the past? The subject of stretching is a source of hot debate in sports, and new research says it doesn't prevent injury.

US-based National Public Radio (NPR) reported on October 13 that static stretching, or standing in one place and stretching isolated muscles by bending and holding, wasn't necessarily preventing injuries in runners. The report cites a recent study by published on the USA Track and Field website by a Maryland-based orthopedic surgeon, Dan Pereles, MD.

Pereles recruited about 3,000 runners and divided them into two groups. One group did three to five minutes of static stretching before each run. The other group just took off running without stretching. Both groups had a mix of men and women of different ages and running abilities. After three months, Pereles found that 16 percent of the runners sustained an injury, but the stretchers were no better off than the non-stretchers.

"The findings of this present study are totally in line with the existing literature," said Malachy McHugh, the director of research at the US-based Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, to The New York Times. Many scientific studies also suggest static stretching not only does not prevent injuries but may hinder athletic performance as well. 

So, should you stop stretching? Not necessarily says Pereles. In his study, those runners who were in the habit of stretching before running and were put in the "no-stretch" group sustained more injuries. "So if you're used to stretching, you should still do it," Pereles told NPR.

New trends in track and field coaching in the US suggest that a technique called "active isolated stretching" might protect runners from injuries better than traditional bend-and-hold techniques. Developed by trainer Aaron Mattes and used by massage therapists, physical therapists, and coaches, the technique emphasizes gentle, fluid repetitions of two- to three-second holds with more repetitions.

To read more on NPR and watch a video demonstration of active isolated stretching: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130509347&ps=cprs

To read Pereles' study: http://www.usatf.org/stretchStudy/index.asp

 

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