According to a new and interesting study stretching before running may not prevent or cause injury but switching the routine increases the risk of injury considerably. The results of the study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons provided a surprise twist to the common belief. Daniel Pereles, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in Potomac, says that only those people who switched their routine for the sake of the study had increased risk of injuries. According to him, those who are used to stretching before the run can continue to do so while those who are not used to it should not start all on a sudden.
In this study 2,729 runners who ran 10 miles or more weekly, were divided into two groups – those who stretched and those who did not. In some people, the assigned group was a switch of their routine while for others it was just an extension of the normal routine. Participants in the stretch group stretched their quadriceps, hamstrings, and Achilles for 3-5 minutes before running. Everything else remained the same for the participants including any other warm up activities.
The researchers followed up the participants and analysed the number of reports of injury, defined as any condition that prevented them from running for more than a week. All types of injury including muscle tears and stress fractures were taken into account. A total of 1,389 people completed the study including 600 in the stretch group and 798 in the non-stretch group. The average injury rate in both the groups was 16%. The most common risk factors for the injury were noted to be recent chronic injuries and a higher body mass index.
Pereles reports that people who switched their routine, stretching or not stretching, were prone to have injuries when compared to those who continued the same routine. Participants in the non-stretch group who used to stretch before the study had 23% increase in the injury rates while those who started stretching after joining the study had 22% increase in the injury. The typical 5-minute stretch exercises did not have any difference in the rate of injury.
Jacob Wilson, PhD, of the University of Tampa, claims that stretching is not good for preventing any form of injury or for enhancing the performance. In one of his studies, he reports that those who stretched did not have a good performance when compared to those who did not stretch. According to him, switching the routine may change the running pattern and increase the risk of injury.