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View Full Version : It's official: stretching doesn't reduce injuries



Anthem
09-19-2010, 03:40 PM
A new study from USA Track and Field took a look at 1400 runners and found:


About 16 percent of the group that didn't stretch were hobbled badly enough to miss training for at least a week (the researchers' definition of a running injury), while about 16 percent of the group that did stretch were laid up for at least a week. The percentages, in other words, were virtually identical. Static stretching had proved to be a wash in terms of protecting against injury. It "neither prevented nor induced injury when compared with not stretching before running," the study's authors concluded.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/01/phys-ed-does-stretching-before-running-prevent-injuries/?partner=rss&emc=rss

My title is a bit of an oversimplification.... this refers to "static" stretching (where you stay in place and stretch a calf/quad/whatever). "Dynamic" stretching seems to help, although there's apparently an art to it and it's easy to do wrong.

I wonder if we could send a copy of this to the new trainers?

Sookie
09-19-2010, 03:53 PM
There have been statistics that suggest that stretching actually increases ACL tears (the studies deal with women, whom are the primary concern in basketball and soccer for those injuries. So this may actually not have anything to do with men.)

Because inevitably, stretching..stretches out the muscles..and tighter mucles around the knee protect the acl.

obviously this is one study..which keep in mind..they are studies..not facts..but interesting all the same.

imawhat
09-19-2010, 04:15 PM
I'm imagining Jeff Foster's long pre-game stretch routine in my head. A lot of his injuries come from the way he plays, but I seem to remember a higher than average number of muscle-related leg injuries.

Deadshot
09-19-2010, 04:29 PM
I'm imagining Jeff Foster's long pre-game stretch routine in my head. A lot of his injuries come from the way he plays, but I seem to remember a higher than average number of muscle-related leg injuries.

I can't find a record anywhere online, so what injuries are you referring to? I know last season was basically Dwight Howard's fault, but what other issues have there been?

BornReady
09-19-2010, 04:41 PM
mmm I thought you were supposed to do a light jog before stretching

Day-V
09-19-2010, 04:51 PM
mmm I thought you were supposed to do a light jog before stretching

Exactly. Always need to have a warm-up. It's never a good idea to stretch a cold muscle.

IndyPacer
09-19-2010, 05:05 PM
I'm not buying it. I was a track runner, a Marine, and have spent a great deal of time training in martial arts (karate as a kid, Brazilian jujitsu and judo after that), and I was highly resistant to injury thanks to my high level of flexibility. I don't think it was a coincidence that I usually had the least frequent or severe injuries and was always among the most flexible. I was flexible precisely because of stretching, including static stretching.

I also did what would probably be considered dynamic stretching and warm up exercises before running, but I don't recall a single instance of injury that I could reasonably link to high flexibility I obtained from static stretching.

xBulletproof
09-19-2010, 06:12 PM
I'm not buying it. I was a track runner, a Marine, and have spent a great deal of time training in martial arts (karate as a kid, Brazilian jujitsu and judo after that), and I was highly resistant to injury thanks to my high level of flexibility. I don't think it was a coincidence that I was usually had the least frequent or severe injuries and was always among the most flexible. I was flexible precisely because of stretching, including static stretching.

I also did what would probably be considered dynamic stretching and warm up exercises before running, but I don't recall a single instance of injury that I could reasonably link to high flexibility I obtained from static stretching.

Everyone's body is different. There are exceptions to every rule. These studies are based on finding what effect things have on the MAJORITY of people. Not 100% of people.

cdash
09-19-2010, 06:17 PM
Everyone's body is different. There are exceptions to every rule. These studies are based on finding what effect things have on the MAJORITY of people. Not 100% of people.

The majority of people in their sample, maybe.

I don't think this will stop me from stretching before any sort of work outs, and I am skeptical as to how much I believe this data. That said, I don't really know the difference between static and dynamic stretching, so maybe I'm missing something.

joeyd
09-19-2010, 06:25 PM
Obviously I am not a pro, so I do not keep in shape like one nor play like one. However, many years ago I would sporadically pull something in my back during intramural basketball games and summer Hoop-It-Up Tournaments. When it happened at a tournament about 3 years ago, a trainer recommended some specific back-stretching exercises to be done consistently AND also before games. Once I started to doing these, I never had any problems in games. So for my specific ailment with my back, I'd have to say that stretching works. Of course, the proper control would be to not excercise and only stretch before games, but I don't think that this control was included in the study with the runners surveyed. They probably excercise regularly.

IndyPacer
09-19-2010, 06:30 PM
Everyone's body is different. There are exceptions to every rule. These studies are based on finding what effect things have on the MAJORITY of people. Not 100% of people.

I'm not opposed to further investigation and am very open to the possibility that I could be wrong. I'm also very aware of limitations of my anecdotal, personal experiences.

But I'm also very skeptical of studies that suddenly produce results that are seemingly contrary to everything we've found to be true historically. That is, I find the results to be interesting but require a more robust collection of studies to convince me. New findings get the press, but I'm personally persuaded by multiple replications rather than initial findings, and I'm confident that most with a research background will share this view.

DaveP63
09-19-2010, 06:40 PM
It has been my experience, that I have far less problems when I don't stretch. If I run, I walk for a bit to "warm up". It worked for 20 years of military service.

joeyd
09-19-2010, 06:41 PM
New findings get the press, but I'm personally persuaded by multiple replications rather than initial findings, and I'm confident that most with a research background will share this view.

I have a research background, and what I find interesting currently is the debate about glucosamine-chondroitin. Many folks swear by its benefits, but scientific data have mostly led to conclusions that it does not do what is advertised. It worked for my knee, and thankfully I started using it before some of the negative studies came out, or I probably never would have started using it.

I think that, just as we will likely find that some meds like specific chemotherapies are more effective in some individuals, so will we find that specific stretches and regimens benefit some more than others.

bulldog
09-19-2010, 06:44 PM
I was highly resistant to injury thanks to my high level of flexibility. I don't think it was a coincidence that I usually had the least frequent or severe injuries and was always among the most flexible.

Your assertion is very different from what the study is trying to address. They're saying that pre-workout static stretching was not helpful in preventing major injuries in workouts after stretching. You're saying flexibility, derived in part from static stretching, is helpful for preventing major injuries.

They can both be true. An intense several month long flexibility program that includes static stretching may be helpful, whereas simply doing some static stretches prior to workout with no attempt to improve flexibility long term may not be helpful.

In my opinion, the major misunderstandings occur because people are very quick to over-interpret findings. Your brain just wants to make leaps the data don't support. This might be such a case. This study is saying something very interesting, but also something very limited. I definitely think it's still important to work on your flexibility, and at the very least this study doesn't really address that.

dohman
09-19-2010, 06:46 PM
It has also been shown that stretching directly before a workout can actually cause your muscles not to be able to give a 100%. I wish I had a link for it but it has been quite some time since I have read that.

I still stretch but its no where near the length of time that I used to. I focus more on the warmup now.

IndyProdigy
09-19-2010, 09:05 PM
It has also been shown that stretching directly before a workout can actually cause your muscles not to be able to give a 100%. I wish I had a link for it but it has been quite some time since I have read that.

I still stretch but its no where near the length of time that I used to. I focus more on the warmup now.

thats because its stupid to stretch cold muscles. theyre stiff and inflexible. ALWAYS warmup before you stretch. though it may not help reduce injuries, it DOES improve athleticism.

Stryder
09-19-2010, 09:15 PM
I haven't read the article/paper yet, but I'll preface the reading with...

Anyone and anything can get published. It's not difficult.

scott55
09-19-2010, 10:14 PM
I think a mixture of both types of stretching is good. Obviously before a game dynamic stretching is what you want to do. But static stretching is ultimately what is going to make you faster and more flexible. This will in turn keep your leg muscles healthier. Just my opinion...

Anthem
09-19-2010, 11:02 PM
I haven't read the article/paper yet, but I'll preface the reading with...

Anyone and anything can get published. It's not difficult.
A 1400-person study tends to be real work, no matter who you are.

Especially when "who you are" is USA Track and Field.

Here's the actual link, if you're interested.

http://www.usatf.org/stretchStudy/index.asp

Stryder
09-19-2010, 11:38 PM
A 1400-person study tends to be real work, no matter who you are.

Especially when "who you are" is USA Track and Field.

Here's the actual link, if you're interested.

http://www.usatf.org/stretchStudy/index.asp

Thanks for the link. I'll read it later.

But that still doesn't get around the fact that anyone can publish data...I'm not saying I disagree/agree with anything. I haven't read anything yet or probably don't even know enough about the subject matter to speak intelligently on it.

graphic-er
09-20-2010, 12:22 AM
Its simple, stretch often, not just before you lace it up.

I find that having a great range of motion and extension greatly helps me in all of my everyday activities.

redfoster
09-20-2010, 01:12 AM
I haven't read the article/paper yet, but I'll preface the reading with...

Anyone and anything can get published. It's not difficult.
Thanks Stryder. Hell of a contribution.

I tend to go for the 5 minute warmup when I hit the gym (about 5 times a week when I am good, 3 when I'm lazy) and it helps a lot. I used to jump right into running/lifting and now that I do about 5 minutes at around 3.5 on the treadmill, I feel a lot better. I almost never stretch, though. I just don't feel like I get a lot out of it.

O'Bird
09-20-2010, 04:09 AM
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/01/phys-ed-does-stretching-before-running-prevent-injuries/?partner=rss&emc=rss

My title is a bit of an oversimplification.... this refers to "static" stretching (where you stay in place and stretch a calf/quad/whatever). "Dynamic" stretching seems to help, although there's apparently an art to it and it's easy to do wrong.

I wonder if we could send a copy of this to the new trainers?

I'm sure that the trainers are well aware of this discussion, which has been going on for some years now.

The sample size is impressive, but I think that there are multiple problems with the study, the most significant of which is the amount of stretching that was done by the participants: three to five minutes (presumably depending on how quickly the subjects went through the routine, since each stretch was supposed to be for 20 seconds).

I was surprised by the experts who were claiming that no stretch/spindle reflexes are elicited by dynamic stretches, and it's not possible to clearly understand from the description how these are done. Not opposed to them, of course - I'm a proponent of variety. Nor am I opposed to spindle reflexes - they're very useful for getting tone up.

Spindle reflexes can be suppressed in static stretches by contracting the antagonist muscles. Holding the breath increases them, but there's a good chance that that caution was not included in the protocol. Furthermore, if the stretch is held steady with antagonists contracting, the inverse stretch reflexes from the Golgi Tendon Organs produce a decrease in tone.

I have not seen the protocol for stretching technique in the study, but since these vary widely, it's dubious to conclude that stretching in general is being looked at by this particular protocol, even if the conclusion is restricted to static stretching.

That subjects only stretched quads, hams, and calf muscles is a significant limitation that has to be kept in mind when evaluating the results and conclusions of this study (not to mention the interpretations that reporters make). Running movements are hardly restricted to those muscles, nor indeed to muscles of the lower limb alone.

Looking at a bigger picture, the study only lasted three months, and only looked at injuries.

One thing that the study found is the interesting fact that the runners who were used to stretching before running who were put in the non-stretching group had more injuries. The speculation about why that was should be kept in perspective; it's a little disappointing that Dr. McHugh felt they had to explain it away in that way.

We should also keep in mind that it's likely that all participants were forbidden to stretch at other times, so that the results could be carefully controlled.

Dr. Tucker's comment is certainly welcome from my quarter: “[When] you stretch through movement, you involve the brain much more, teaching proprioception and control, as well as improving flexibility.” I happen to believe that static stretching is a very powerful tool, if done correctly, for deepening proprioception and improving flexibility. For balancing the tone across joints it is peerless, and indeed irreplaceable. But I have no problem with using all the different species of stretching, and I am fully aligned with the aims that Dr. Tucker's comment shows.

Anyway, bottom line, a valuable contribution to the literature, but only looking at a tiny piece of the puzzle, and apparently claiming a more general conclusion than they have the right to. I'm only concerned that it will stop people from stretching.

____________

O'Bird
09-20-2010, 04:14 AM
I think a mixture of both types of stretching is good. Obviously before a game dynamic stretching is what you want to do. But static stretching is ultimately what is going to make you faster and more flexible. This will in turn keep your leg muscles healthier. Just my opinion...

I agree. And indeed there are more than two types of stretching, especially if you are lucky enough to be a pro athlete with a trainer to provide resistance or passive stretching.

___________

O'Bird
09-20-2010, 04:26 AM
It has also been shown that stretching directly before a workout can actually cause your muscles not to be able to give a 100%. I wish I had a link for it but it has been quite some time since I have read that.

I still stretch but its no where near the length of time that I used to. I focus more on the warmup now.

Try this:
http://www.bmj.com/content/325/7362/468.short?rss=1&ssource=mfc

It's an interesting point, and depending on what you mean by 100%, and what kind of stretching we're talking about, it's certainly worth considering for athletes.

I happen to think, dovetailing with this, that the benefits of stretching are deep and long-term, and you should be doing it even if you aren't doing it right before the event.

cgg
09-20-2010, 05:16 AM
New study shows earth is round. Many disagree, because everyone knows the world is flat.

Eleazar
09-20-2010, 10:26 AM
I've never really bought into the whole stretching thing. I always found a good warm-up was much more effective. Then again I've never had any kind of problem with muscle injuries.

ChicagoJ
09-20-2010, 01:10 PM
Knowing the current leadership of USATF, I'll be curious to read and understand this study.

Its clearly going to make a difference if the sample is sprinters/ jumpers vs. distance runners. And the current leadership doesn't seem to "get" the sprinting/ jumping element anymore.

Given that "running 10 miles per week" is a pre-requisite to participating in the study, I doubt that many sprinters are included as most don't run 10 miles in a week, except very early in the season when doing over-distance training. So if you want to make a blanket statement, or apply it to athletes in another sport (say, basketball), then good luck to you.

Further, its easy to see where sprinters are more suspect to sudden-trauma types of muscle pulls and tears, and its hard to say whether stretching/ flexibility is the culprit for those. When I tore my groin muscle, its because my right spike got caught in the track while slowing down after the conclusion of a 200m final in a collegiate invitational. And since my left leg was still moving pretty quickly, no amount of static or dynamic stretching was going to have me ready for what happened in that split-second that my body rotated counter-clockwise around my right groin. Ouch. Conversely, in general distance-type runners are not suspect to muscle pulls/ tears but to overuse injuries like tendonitis (which can be a problem for any athlete.) Stretching and flexibility are the root cause of some of those injuries, but not all of them.

For my overuse injuries, lack of hamstring flexibility was a problem area but I stretched consistently. I've eventually figured out that my poor flexibility in my hamstrings was not due to a lack of stretching, but that the sciatic nerve is slightly pinched and therefore is always "on", even when I've placed the muscle in a relaxed postion. No amount of hamstring stretches - dynamic or static - were going to improve flexibility of my hamstrings. But better posture/ core strength is.

Further, there has been a lot of progress over the past decade with regards to muscle health and vitality that has nothing to do with stretching. I certainly wish I had a foam roller and a "Stick" back in my college sprinting days. I can't imagine how much faster I could have been with those technologies keeping me healthier. I've been through a lot of physcial therapy over the past year, and right now my legs feel as pain-free as they ever have... even though I'm still carrying much too much weight on my frame. I love my foam roller.

The medical science for sports injuries is evolving and improving rapidly. Although my knee surgeries twenty years ago were a "last resort" procedure, no doctor would even think of treating IT-band issues with surgery today. Of course, nobody knew that weakness in the glutius medius was the primary source of IT-band problems back then, either, which is why physical therapy today is so much more useful that it was then.

There are benefits of stretching, dynamically and statically. And there are benefits of the foam roller/ Stick. And as we all get smarter, it will take a combination of all these.

Whether you think the human body was created by God or evolved, everyone agrees that it is wonderfully complex and any "simple" solution is probably too simple.

vnzla81
09-20-2010, 01:36 PM
Well somebody should tell JOB that streching is not good anymore then :D

indyaway
09-20-2010, 01:58 PM
Knowing the current leadership of USATF, I'll be curious to read and understand this study.

They were dismissive of static stretching and pro-dynamic stretching as far back as 3 years ago @ USATF school. I'm not so sure organizational leadership has much of an impact on what's going on in their educational track, but I may be wrong.

MLB007
09-20-2010, 02:34 PM
I have a research background, and what I find interesting currently is the debate about glucosamine-chondroitin. Many folks swear by its benefits, but scientific data have mostly led to conclusions that it does not do what is advertised. It worked for my knee, and thankfully I started using it before some of the negative studies came out, or I probably never would have started using it.

I think that, just as we will likely find that some meds like specific chemotherapies are more effective in some individuals, so will we find that specific stretches and regimens benefit some more than others.

Exactly. When you look at how different we all are in so many ways, it's really silly to suppose that we are going to react the same way to the same stimuli or situation or whatever you want to use.
My reaction to something may be 180 degrees different than your reaction.
Who is right???
I've had the same experience with G/C. And every year or so I read another study that "proves" it DOESN"T work and I wonder If I'm wasting money so I stop taking it to see.
And a few weeks later my knees start getting sore as h*ll. :eek:

MLB007
09-20-2010, 02:37 PM
I've never really bought into the whole stretching thing. I always found a good warm-up was much more effective. Then again I've never had any kind of problem with muscle injuries.

Not an either or thing. STretching isn't just standing in one spot stretching different muscles. Lots of warm up involves slowly limbering up muscles and increasing blood flow to them as your core temp rises. That's stretching just as much.
SO many people stretch cold muscles.

Since86
09-20-2010, 02:39 PM
Is this really news?

Why does it really matter? There's also no evidence that it causes injury either, so why should players stop stretching, or why should someone tell the Pacers trainers?

For some it's just routine. Just like a professional golfer will go through their entire putting routine for a tap-in. While it might not seem like a big deal to you or me, for some it's something that relaxes them.

I for one, have never gotten done stretching (properly) and then thought "Wow, I wish I didn't do that....." Whether or not it prevents injuries doesn't really matter to me, it makes me feel better. If someone wants to stretch, then stretch. If you don't, then I would advise to find some way you do like to warm-up. That's the conclusion I see. It doesn't matter if you stretch or if you actively warm-up. Choose which everone you prefer, or do both if you want too.

Unless a study comes out proving that stretching causes injury, then this shouldn't cause anyone to change how they warm-up.

ChicagoJ
09-20-2010, 03:07 PM
They were dismissive of static stretching and pro-dynamic stretching as far back as 3 years ago @ USATF school. I'm not so sure organizational leadership has much of an impact on what's going on in their educational track, but I may be wrong.

I'm not a fan of Craig Masback's leadership in general and he left the organization in dissarray.

vapacersfan
09-20-2010, 03:49 PM
One of my classmates just got a job with USATAF.



I for one, have never gotten done stretching (properly) and then thought "Wow, I wish I didn't do that....." Whether or not it prevents injuries doesn't really matter to me, it makes me feel better. If someone wants to stretch, then stretch. If you don't, then I would advise to find some way you do like to warm-up. That's the conclusion I see. It doesn't matter if you stretch or if you actively warm-up. Choose which everone you prefer, or do both if you want too.


I agree.

Los Angeles
09-20-2010, 04:42 PM
Maybe young athletes won't gain a health advantage to stretching, but let me tell you all, unless you want to become a stiff, injury prone old person by the time you're only 40, you better introduce stretching into your life after you turn 30.

I suffered a debilitating back injury because I never stretched. I just did whatever activities I wanted to do. And the big cahuna: I couldn't touch my toes because my hamstrings were so darn tight. When doing anything that involved bending, my body compensated for the lack of flexibility at the hip by "hinging" at the top of my sacrum (L5/S1) Hinge far enough and your disc can pop like a green grape.

If only I had payed proper attention to my flexibility (STRETCHING) I would have never lost two years of my physical life.

I'll never again be 100%, but through Yoga (flexibility, stability, inversion, strength) and Pilates (core strength, strength through full range of motion of all joints, posture) I will be far healthier at 60 than I was at 30.

Maybe stretching isn't important. But flexibility certainly is, especially for men over 30.

naptownmenace
09-20-2010, 05:08 PM
Maybe young athletes won't gain a health advantage to stretching, but let me tell you all, unless you want to become a stiff, injury prone old person by the time you're only 40, you better introduce stretching into your life after you turn 30.

I suffered a debilitating back injury because I never stretched. I just did whatever activities I wanted to do. And the big cahuna: I couldn't touch my toes because my hamstrings were so darn tight. When doing anything that involved bending, my body compensated for the lack of flexibility at the hip by "hinging" at the top of my sacrum (L5/S1) Hinge far enough and your disc can pop like a green grape.

If only I had payed proper attention to my flexibility (STRETCHING) I would have never lost two years of my physical life.

I'll never again be 100%, but through Yoga (flexibility, stability, inversion, strength) and Pilates (core strength, strength through full range of motion of all joints, posture) I will be far healthier at 60 than I was at 30.

Maybe stretching isn't important. But flexibility certainly is, especially for men over 30.

Agree with everything above.

I'll just add that you don't stretch to prevent injury. You stretch to speed up the recovery time and lessen muscle soreness after exercise/strenuous activity. That's the way I've always been trained when it comes to stretching.

O'Bird
09-21-2010, 04:43 PM
Hinge far enough and your disc can pop like a green grape.


Great image.