Stretching before a run neither prevents nor causes injury,
according to a study presented today at the 2011 Annual Meeting of
the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
More than 70 million people worldwide run recreationally or
competitively, and recently there has been controversy regarding
whether runners should stretch before running, or not at all. This
study included 2,729 runners who run 10 or more miles per week. Of
these runners, 1,366 were randomized to a stretch group, and 1,363
were randomized to a non-stretch group before running. Runners in
the stretch group stretched their quadriceps, hamstrings, and
gastrocnemius/soleus muscle groups. The entire routine took 3 to 5
minutes and was performed immediately before running.
The study found that stretching before running neither prevents
nor causes injury. In fact, the most significant risk factors for
injury included the following:
- history of chronic injury or injury in the past four
- higher body mass index (BMI); and
- switching pre-run stretching routines (runners who normally
stretch stopping and those who did stretch starting to stretch
“But, the more mileage run or the heavier and older the runner
was, the more likely he or she was likely to get injured,”
“As a runner myself, I thought stretching before a run would
help to prevent injury,” said Daniel Pereles, MD, study author and
orthopaedic surgeon from Montgomery Orthopedics outside Washington,
DC. “However, we found that the risk for injury was the same for
men and women, whether or not they were high or low mileage
runners, and across all age groups. But, the more mileage run or
the heavier and older the runner was, the more likely he or she was
likely to get injured, and previous injury within four months
predisposed to even further injury,” he added.
Runners who typically stretch as part of their pre-run routine
and were randomized not to stretch during the study period were far
more likely to have an injury. “Although all runners switching
routines were more likely to experience an injury than those who
did not switch, the group that stopped stretching had more reported
injuries, implying that an immediate shift in a regimen may be more
important than the regimen itself,” he added.
The most common injuries sustained were groin pulls, foot/ankle
injuries, and knee injuries. There was no significant difference in
injury rates between the runners who stretched and the runners who
didn’t for any specific injury location or diagnosis.