Does stretching before sport help to prevent injury?

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Maintaining good flexibility is an important aspect of athletic performance and injury prevention. It is widely accepted that poor flexibility and inadequate joint range of movement are significant factors contributing to the development of numerous injuries.

If performed correctly, stretching is an excellent way to improve flexibility. There are two main techniques used to stretch – static stretching and dynamic stretching. Static stretching involves taking a particular muscle towards its end of available range and holding it for a period of time. This enables the body to relax into the stretch. Dynamic stretching involves movement and takes the muscle and joints through their available range without stopping for prolonged periods.

Stretching before sport is important to loosen the muscles and joints through their available range in a controlled environment. The stretches selected, however, should primarily involve dynamic stretches, rather than static ones. This is because the main aim prior to sport is to conduct a thorough warm up of the body preparing it for the skills required for that particular sport. Dynamic stretches increase the temperature of the affected body parts assisting the warm up process. Static stretches on the other hand, cause a cooling effect thus counteracting the purpose of a warm-up. In addition, static stretching prior to sport has been shown to decrease muscle performance and may contribute to decreased athletic performance.

Recent research has demonstrated that static stretching before sport does not reduce the likelihood of injury during that particular activity. However, as mentioned previously, maintaining good flexibility overall does. It is therefore recommended that prior to exercise or sport, a thorough warm up including dynamic stretching should take place to reduce injury likelihood. Then, following sport or exercise, static stretches should be used to reduce muscle tightening, improve flexibility and assists with the recovery process.To view a variety of flexibility exercises for all parts of the body click here.

Does stretching before sport help to prevent injury? (Hamstring Stretch)

Figure 1 – Does stretching before sport help to prevent injury? (Hamstring Stretch)

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