Article

To stretch or not to stretch: The role of stretching in injury prevention and performance

Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, New York 10075, USA.
Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (Impact Factor: 2.9). 04/2010; 20(2):169-81. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01058.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Stretching is commonly practiced before sports participation; however, effects on subsequent performance and injury prevention are not well understood. There is an abundance of literature demonstrating that a single bout of stretching acutely impairs muscle strength, with a lesser effect on power. The extent to which these effects are apparent when stretching is combined with other aspects of a pre-participation warm-up, such as practice drills and low intensity dynamic exercises, is not known. With respect to the effect of pre-participation stretching on injury prevention a limited number of studies of varying quality have shown mixed results. A general consensus is that stretching in addition to warm-up does not affect the incidence of overuse injuries. There is evidence that pre-participation stretching reduces the incidence of muscle strains but there is clearly a need for further work. Future prospective randomized studies should use stretching interventions that are effective at decreasing passive resistance to stretch and assess effects on subsequent injury incidence in sports with a high prevalence of muscle strains.

Full-text

Available from: Malachy McHugh, Dec 16, 2014
Review
To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention
and performance
M. P. McHugh, C. H. Cosgrave
Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, New York, USA
Corresponding author: Malachy P. McHugh, PhD, Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, Lenox Hill
Hospital, 130 East 77th St, New York, New York 10075, USA. Tel: 11 212 434 2714, Fax: 11 212 434 2687, E-mail:
mchugh@nismat.org
Accepted for publication 5 October 2009
Stretching is commonly practiced before sports participa-
tion; however, eects on subsequent performance and injury
prevention are not well understood. There is an abundance
of literature demonstrating that a single bout of stretching
acutely impairs muscle strength, with a lesser eect on
power. The extent to which these eects are apparent when
stretching is combined with other aspects of a pre-participa-
tion warm-up, such as practice drills and low intensity
dynamic exercises, is not known. With respect to the eect
of pre-participation stretching on injury prevention a limited
number of studies of varying quality have shown mixed
results. A general consensus is that stretching in addition to
warm-up does not aect the incidence of overuse injuries.
There is evidence that pre-participation stretching reduces
the incidence of muscle strains but there is clearly a need for
further work. Future prospective randomized studies should
use stretching interventions that are eective at decreasing
passive resistance to stretch and assess eects on subsequent
injury incidence in sports with a high prevalence of muscle
strains.
The purpose of this review is to examine the litera-
ture on the eects of stretching on sports injury and
performance. The specific focus will be on stretching
and not flexibility, where stretching is an extrinsic
factor potentially aecting sports injury and perfor-
mance, while flexibility would be an intrinsic factor.
The focus will also be on pre-participation stretching
as opposed to habitual stretching, i.e. the type of
stretching athletes typical ly do before undertaking an
athletic performance. Finally, the focus will be on
stretching, not warm-up, with the understanding that
stretching is usually practiced as a component of a
general pre-participation warm-up. In assessing the
eects of stretching on injury, special attention will
be given to the intensity, frequency and duration of
the stretching interventions used in specific studies.
However, potential dierences between dierent
stretching techniques, such as static stretching, bal-
listic stretching or proprioceptive neuromuscular
facilitation stretching, will not be addressed. While
there is an abundance of literature comparing these
techniques in te rms of changes in range of motion,
there is insucient data on the eects of dierent
stretching techniques on injur y.
The intended purposes of stretching before an
athletic event are: (1) to ensure that the individual
has sucient range of motion in his or her joints to
perform the athletic activity optimally and (2) to
decrease muscle stin ess or increase muscle compli-
ance thereby theoretically decreasing injury risk.
Stretching is therefore intended to aect both per-
formance and injury risk. With respect to perfor-
mance, stretching might improve performance, have
no eect on performance or impair performance.
Similarly with respect to injury risk, stretching might
decrease injury risk, have no eect on injury risk or
increase injury risk. Therefore, when one considers
the potential eects of stretching on performance and
injury risk, there are nine possible combined eects.
Optimally stretching would improve performance
and decrease injury risk and the most detrimental
eect would be that stretching impairs performance
and increases injury risk. This range of possibilities
must be considered in an overall assessment of the
ecacy of pre-participation stretching.
Acute viscoelastic and neural effects of stretching
Acute eects of stretching have been extensively
studied. These eects can be categorized into viscoe-
lastic eects and neural eects. In terms of viscoe-
lastic eects, changes in ran ge of motion and
resistance to stretch after an acute bout of stretching
can be described in terms of stress relaxation, creep
and hysteresis (Taylor et al., 1990; McHugh et al.,
Scand J Med Sci Sports 2010: 20: 169–181
& 2009 John Wiley & Sons A/S
doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01058.x
169
Page 1
1992, 1998; Magnusson et al., 1998). With respect to
neural eects of stretching, it is apparent that when
slow passive stretches are applied to skeletal muscle
of healthy individuals, there is minimal active con-
tractile activity in response to the stretch (Magnus-
son et al., 1995, 1996b; McHugh et al., 1998; Ryan et
al., 2008a) and indices of motor neuron excitability
are decreased (Guissard et al., 1988, 2001; Avela et
al., 1999). Interestingly, stretch-induced strength loss
(discussed in the following section) is, in part, attri-
butable to a prolonged inhibitory eect of stretching
(Avela et al., 1999).
Studies examining the viscoelastic eects of
stretching have clearly shown that increases in joint
range of motion are associated with decreases in
passive resistance to stretch such that after several
stretches of a given duration, resistance to stretch at
the same range of motion will be decreased (Mag-
nusson et al., 1995, 1996a; McHugh & Nesse, 2008;
Ryan et al., 2008a). This decrease in resistance can be
referred to as a decrease in muscle stiness or an
increase in muscle compliance. An important goal of
stretching before sports performance is to increase
range of motion and to decrease resistance to stretch,
allowing a freer movement pattern. This is particu-
larly true in activities requiring a large range of
motion in multiple joints. An extreme example of
which would be ballet dance where the combination
of warm-up and stretching accounts for approxi-
mately 25% of the total practice time (Reid et al.,
1987).
Optimal stretching prescription with respect to
intensity, frequency and duration for red ucing pas-
sive muscle stiness, has received little attention in
literature pertaining to eects of stretching on injury
prevention and performance. Stretching intensity is
typically controlled by subjective assessm ent of the
discomfort of the stretch with study participants
tolerating stretches that are somewhere below a
painful threshold but providing some degree of
discomfort. With respect to the duration and fre-
quency of stretching, Magnusson et al. (1995, 1996a)
showed that 4 ! 90 s static stretches of the hamstring
muscle group progressively decreased passive resis-
tance to stretch by approximately 18–19% (Fig. 1).
Of note, this eect was reversed within 1 h. More
recently McHugh and Nesse (2008) demonstrated
5 ! 90 s hamstring stretches reduced passive resis-
tance to stretch by 8.3%. Interestingly, in the same
study, reduction in resistance to stretch was similar
(9%) when the stretch duration was decreased to 60 s
(five repetitions) but stretch intensity was signifi-
0%
2%
4%
6%
8%
10%
12%
14%
16%
18%
20%
0 min 10 min 20 min 30 min 40 min 50 min 60 min
Time Post Stretching
% Decline in Resistance to Stretch
8 min
4 min
2 min
6 min
6 min
Ryan et al 2008a
Magnusson et al 1995
Magnusson et al 1996a
Fig. 1. Eect of duration of stretch on passive resistance to stretch. The data from Ryan et al. (2008a) are for the plantar
flexors and the data from Magnusson et al. (1995, 1996a) are for the knee flexors. Ryan et al. (2008a) reported stiness values
while Magnusson et al. (1995, 1996a) reported passive resistive torque. Magnusson et al. (1995, 1996a) performed five
consecutive stretches lasting 90 s with a sixth stretch performed after a 1-h break. Percent decline in resistance to stretch shown
on graph at 0 min is the dierence in resistance at the start of the first stretch vs the start of the fifth stretch (i.e. after total
stretch time of 6 min). Percent decline in resistance to stretch at 60 min is the dierence in resistance at the start of the first
stretch vs the start of the sixth stretch (i.e. after total stretch time of 7.5 min). Immediate and prolonged eects are dependent
on total stretch duration. For Ryan et al. (2008a) percent change in resistance to stretch was calculated from the reported
absolute changes in terminal stiness. These data indicate that a total stretch duration of 2 min has no prolonged eect,
approximately 50% of the eect of a 4-min stretch duration is lost in 10 min, and approximately 50% of the eect of an 8-min
stretch duration is lost in 30 min.
McHugh & Cosgrave
170
Page 2
cantly increased. In another study (Magnusson et al.,
2000b), 2 ! 45 s static hamstring stretches had no
significant eect on resistance to passive stretch.
Similarly, 4 ! 30 s stretches of the plantar flexors
did not aect resistance to stretch (Muir et al.,
1999). By contrast, more recently, Ryan et al.
(2008a) demonstrated a 12% reduction in passive
stiness of the plantar flexors with 4 ! 30 s stretches,
but this eect lasted o10 min. Longer duration
stretches clearly have more prolonged eects (Fig.
1). Taking these studies together provides so me
insight into the total duration of stretches required
to provide a prolonged decrease in passive resistance
to stretch acutely; 4 ! 30 s (2 min) and 2 ! 45 s
(1.5 min) appear to be insucient while 5 ! 60 s
(5 min) and 4 ! 90 s (6 min) appear to be eective.
The eects of a 4-min stretch duration were still
apparent after 10 min (Ryan et al., 2008a) and this
may be the minimal stretch duration required to
provide a prolonged eect using static stretches.
If a total stretch duration approximating 5 min is
required to make a meaningful change in passive
resistance to stretch in a single muscle group with
static stretching, it would take in the region of 20 min
to eectively stretch both the agonist and antagon ist
muscle groups bilaterally. If two or three sets of
agonists and antagonists are to be stretched, as
would be typical in preparation for a sports activity
involving numerous dierent joints and body parts,
total stretch durations would be in the region of 40–
60 min if the goal is to decreas e passive resistance to
stretch in those target muscle groups. This amount of
time is clearly well in excess of typical pre-participa-
tion stretching practices with the possible exception
of elite ballet dancers. Pre-participation stretching
protocols that include individual stretches involving
more than one muscle group can reduce the total
time for an eective protocol. For example, perform-
ing a straight leg raise hamstring stretch with the
non-stretched leg held in neutral hip flexion means
that the hip flexors of the non-stretched leg are being
stretched at the same time as the contralateral ham-
strings. Additionally, a combined stretch of the
plantar flexors, hamstrings and lumbar spine can be
achieved in toe touch stretch. However, a limitation
of these types of combined stretches is that stretch
intensity to a particular muscle group will vary and
some muscle groups may be stretched more eec-
tively than others.
It might be possible to more readily achieve
reductions in passive muscle tension utilizing stretch-
ing techniques other than static stretching. Toft et al.
(1989) demonstrated a 6% reduction in passive
resistance of the plantar flexors 1 h following a
contract–relax stretching protocol that involved
only 2 min of total stretch time (including contrac-
tion time). Eects of diering durations of ballistic or
cyclic stretching on passive resistance to stretch are
not known. Additionally, the ecacy of dynamic
stretching for decreasing passive muscle stiness
remains to be determined. Similarly, the eect of a
combination of stretching and active warm-up on
passive resistance to stretch has not been studied
extensively. In one study, 10 min of jogging did not
decrease passive resistance to stretch in the hamstring
muscle group, but the addition of three 90-s stretches
after 10-min jogging did decrease passive resistance
(Magnusson et al., 2000a). However, this eect was
not maintain ed after an additional 30 min of running.
Of note, passive resistance to stretch was still 8%
lower than baseline after 30 min of running preceded
by three stretches. With only eight subjects this did
not reach statistical significance. Furthermore, the
hamstring muscle group operates at relatively short
muscle lengths during sub-maximal running (75%
VO
2max
) and some reversal of a stretching eect may
be expected.
Effect of stretching on performance
It has been well established that applying a series of
stretches to a relaxed muscle leads to an acute loss of
strength after the stretching has been completed. This
eect has been referred to as the stretch-induced
strength loss and has been primarily examined in
the knee flexors, knee extensors and plantar flexors.
Decreased amplitude of the surface EMG signal
during maximal voluntary contractions after stretch-
ing provides evidence that stretch -induced strength
loss is a neural eect (Avela et al., 1999, 2004).
Additional evidence that stretch-induced strength
loss is due to a neural eect is that stretch-induced
strength loss has been demonstrated in the contral-
ateral non-stretched limb (Cramer et al., 2005).
Importantly, some studies (Kokkonen et al., 1998;
Nelson et al., 2005a, b; Sekir et al., 2009) that have
shown stretch-induced strength loss have utilized
stretching protocols with o4-min total stretch dura-
tion (Table 1) and therefore, the stretching was
probably not sucient to decrease passive muscle
stiness. It may be easier to initiate a neural aect
(stretch-induced strength loss) than a viscoelastic
eect (decreased passive resistance to stretch).
In practical terms, the eects of stretching on
measures of performance are more important than
the eects of stretching on measures of muscle
strength. It is notable that stretch-induced decre-
ments in performance measu res are generally smaller
than decrements in strength measures (Table 1). For
example, stretch-induced decrements in vertical jump
performance averaged approximately 3–4% (range
0–8%) with decrements in sprint performance ran-
ging from 0% to 2% approximately (Table 1). By
To stretch or not to stretch
171
Page 3
Table 1. Studies examining effects of stretching on muscle strength and power
References Subjects Muscle group(s)
stretched
Stretch time
(min)
Stretch
technique
Stretch intensity Strength
loss
*
Strength measure Power loss
*
Power measure
Avela et al.
(2004)
Recreational male
athletes
Plantar flexors 60 Cyclic 101 dorsiflexion 14% Isometric Not tested NA
Avela et al.
(1999)
Unspecified Male Plantar flexors 60 Cyclic 101 dorsiflexion 23% Isometric Not tested NA
Behm and
Kibele (2007)
Unspecified Three lower
extremity
stretches
2 min per
stretch
Static " Point of
discomfort
Not tested NA 2–8%
w
Vertical jump
Ce
`
et al.
(2008)
Non-athletes Two lower
extremity
stretches
2 min per
stretch
Static ‘‘Onset of soreness’’ Not tested NA 0% Vertical jump
Cornwell et al.
(2002)
Unspecified male Plantar flexors 3 Static Maximum tolerance Not tested NA 7% Vertical jump
Costa et al.
(2009)
Recreational female
athletes
Knee extensors
and flexors
8 Static ‘‘Mild discomfort’’ 9% Isokinetic
60–3001/s
Not tested NA
Cramer et al.
(2004)
Recreational female
athletes
Knee extensors 8 Static ‘‘Mild discomfort’’ 5% Isokinetic 60 and
2401/s
Not reported NA
Cramer et al.
(2005)
Not specified Knee extensors 8 Static ‘‘Mild discomfort’’ 4% Isokinetic 60 and
2401/s
8% Isokinetic 60 and
2401/s
Cramer et al.
(2006)
Recreational female
athletes
Knee extensors 8 Static ‘‘Mild discomfort’’ 6% Isokinetic 60 and
1801/s
Not tested NA
Cramer et al.
(2007b)
Recreational male
athletes
Knee extensors 8 Static ‘‘Mild discomfort’’ 3%
(eccentric)
Isokinetic 60 and
1801/s
3% (eccentric) Isokinetic 60 and
1801/s
Cramer et al.
(2007a)
Recreational athletes Knee extensors 8 Static ‘‘Mild discomfort’’ 6% Isokinetic 60 and
3001/s
Not reported NA
Egan et al.
(2006)
Female basketball Knee extensors 8 Static ‘‘Mild discomfort’’ 3% Isokinetic 60 and
3001/s
6% Isokinetic 60 and
3001/s
Fowles et al.
(2000)
Recreational athletes Plantar flexors 30 Static Maximum tolerance 28% Isometric Not reported NA
Herda et al.
(2008)
Recreational athletes Knee flexors 6
6
Static
Dynamic
‘‘Point of discomfort’’ 14%
4%
Isometric Not reported NA
Herda et al.
(2009)
Recreational athletes Plantar flexors 20 Static ‘‘Point of discomfort’’ 10% Isometric Not tested NA
Knudson et al.
(2004)
Tennis players Seven upper and
lower body
stretches
0.5 min per
stretch
Static ‘‘Point of discomfort’’ Not tested NA 0% Velocity of tennis
serve
Kokkonen et
al. (1998)
Recreational athletes Knee flexors
Knee extensors
3
z
3
z
Static Not specified 7%
8%
Isotonic Not tested NA
Manoel et al.
(2008)
Recreational female
athletes
Knee extensors 1.5
1
1.5
Static
PNF
Dynamic
‘‘Mild discomfort’’ Not reported NA 4%
2%
19%
Isokinetic 60 and
1801/s
Marek et al.
(2005)
Recreational athletes Knee extensors 8 Static
PNF
‘‘Point of discomfort’’ 2%
5%
Isokinetic
60&3001/s
3%
4%
Isokinetic
60 and 3001/s
McBride et al.
(2007)
Recreational athletes Knee extensors 4.5 Static Not specified 19% Isometric Not tested NA
McHugh & Cosgrave
172
Page 4
McHugh and
Nesse (2008)
Not specified Knee Flexors 9 Static Maximum tolerance 16% Isometric Not tested NA
Nelson and
Kokkonen
(2001)
Recreational athletes Knee flexors
Knee extensors
3
z
3
z
Ballistic To ‘‘pain threshold’’ 7%
5%
Isotonic Not tested NA
Nelson et al.
(2005a)
Male athletes Three lower
extremity
stretches
2 min per
stretch
Static Point of discomfort Not Tested NA 2% Sprint time
Nelson et al.
(2001)
Recreational athletes Knee extensors 4 Static To ‘‘pain threshold’’ 10% Isometric Not tested NA
Nelson et al.
(2005b)
Recreational athletes Knee flexors
Knee extensors
3
z
3
z
Static ‘‘Tolerable pain’’ 3%
6%
Isotonic Not tested NA
O’Connor et
al. (2006)
Not specified Lower extremity 3.7
§
Static Not specified Not tested NA 17% Cycling power
Power et al.
(2004)
Not specified Knee extensors
Plantar flexors
4.5
4.5
Static ‘‘Onset of pain’’ 10%
0%
Isometric 6% Vertical jump
Robbins &
Scheuermann
(2008)
Male athletes Three lower
extremity
stretches
2 min per
stretch
Static oOnset of pain Not tested NA 3% Vertical jump
Ryan et al.
(2008b)
Recreational athletes Plantar flexors 8 Static Not specified 6% Isometric Not tested NA
Sekir et al.
(2009)
Female athletes Knee extensors
Knee flexors
1.3
1.3
Static
Dynamic
‘‘Mild discomfort’’ 14%
115%
Isokinetic
60&1801/s
Not tested NA
Torres et al.
(2008)
Elite athletes Seven upper
body stretches
0.5 min per
stretch
Static
Dynamic
Both
Not specified Not tested NA 12%
0%
0%
Bench press 30%
1RM
Unick et al.
(2005)
Female athletes Four lower
extremity
stretches
0.75 min per
stretch
Static
Ballistic
‘‘Just before
discomfort’’
Not tested NA 1%
3%
Vertical jump
Vetter (2007) Recreational athletes Four lower
extremity
stretches
0.5–1 min per
stretch
Static
Dynamic
Not specified Not tested NA " 1%
o1%
Vertical jump
Sprint time
Winchester
et al. (2008)
Elite athletes Four lower
extremity
stretches
1.5 min per
stretch
Static Point of discomfort Not tested NA 2% Sprint time
Yamaguchi
et al. (2006)
Recreational male
athletes
Knee extensors 12 Static Point of discomfort Not tested NA 12% Knee extension
Yamaguchi
et al. (2007)
Recreational male
athletes
Knee extensors 8 Dynamic Not specified Not tested NA 19% Knee extension
*
Highest value reported if effects for different conditions are reported, e.g. strength loss at different angles. Percentage change reported regardless whether effect reached statistical significance.
w
Several different types of jumps analyzed.
z
Five different stretches were performed for a total stretch time of 7.5 min but only two stretches directly or indirectly targeted the knee flexors and only two targeted the knee extensors.
§
Eleven different lower extremity stretches were performed (2 ! 10 s for each stretch).
To stretch or not to stretch
173
Page 5
contrast stretch-induced decrements in strength aver-
aged 22% for 30–60-min total stretch duration
(range 14–28%) and ranged from 2% to 19% for
shorter total stretch duration (average approximately
8%).
Stretch-induced strength loss is dependent on the
stretching technique applied, the contraction type
used for measuring strength loss and the muscle
length at which strength is measured. With respect
to stretching technique, it has been shown that there
is no stretch-induced strength loss with dynamic
stretching (Herda et al., 2008; Hough et al., 2009).
With respect to contraction type, stretch-induced
strength loss was not apparent with eccentric con-
tractions in one study (Cramer et al., 2006) but was
apparent in another (Sekir et al., 2009). With respect
to muscle length, stretch-induced strength loss has
been shown not to occur at longer muscle lengths
(Nelson et al., 2001; Herda et al., 2008; McHugh &
Nesse, 2008). Thes e length-dependent eects can be
explained in terms of the length –tension relationship.
Stretching makes the muscle–tendon unit more com-
pliant, which allows greater muscle shortening when
muscle contractions are initiated at longer muscle
lengths. This allows greater cross-bridge formation
and is reflected by a change in the joint angle at
which peak torque occurs (long er muscle length) and
by a shift in the angle–torque relationship (decreased
torque production at short muscle lengths and in-
creased torque production at long muscle lengths).
Because stretch-induced strength and power loss
are, in part, due to neural eects, it is important to
consider that other neural inputs to the muscle will
typically occur before an athletic performance where
stretching is combined with other warm-up activities
and practice drills. Additionally, the psychological
stress that often manifests immediately before a
competitive event likely alters the excitatory and
inhibitory inputs to muscles to an extent that cannot
be replicated in a laboratory experiment. These
confounding factors limit the generalizability of
laboratory findings to on field performance.
Effect of stretching on injury risk
Several studies have examined the ass ociation be-
tween pre-participation stretching and injury risk
(Ekstrand et al., 1983; Bixler & Jones, 1992; van
Mechelen et al., 1993; Pope et al., 1998, 2000; Amako
et al., 2003; Hadala & Barrios, 2009). The rationale
for these studies is that stretching is universally
practiced before participation in a wide range of
physical activities. However, little attention has
been given to the question of why stretching theore-
tically could impact injury risk. Stretching before
performance may impact on so me types of injuries
but not impact on other injuries. For example, there
is a good rationale for why stretching could impact
the risk of sustaining a muscle strain injury, bu t the
eect of stretching on muscle strain injuries has not
been adequately researched in spor ts with a high
incidence of muscle strains. A plausible theory is that
(1) stretch ing makes the muscle–tendon unit more
compliant (Toft et al., 1989; Magnusson et al., 1996a;
McHugh & Nesse, 2008), (2) increased compliance
shifts the angle–torque relationship to allow greater
relative force production at longer muscle lengths
(Herda et al., 2008; McHugh & Nesse, 2008), and (3)
subsequently the enhanced ability to resist excessive
muscle elongation may decrease the susceptibility to
a muscle strain injury. This theoretical rationale for
why pre-participation muscle stretching might de-
crease the risk of subsequent muscle strain injuries is
a testable hypothesis that has not been adequately
addressed in the literature. Indeed, a counter hypoth-
esis could be that enhanced contractile force produc-
tion when a muscle is in a lengthened position could
increase the likelihood of injury. Importantly, this
rationale does not apply to the risk of other injuries
such as ligament injuries, fractures or overuse inju-
ries, such as tendinopathies.
Studies showing no efficacy for stretching reducing
injury risk
Several randomized (or quasi-randomized) con-
trolled interventions have been published showing
no eect of pre-participation stretching on injury risk
(van Mechelen et al., 1993; Pope et al., 1998,
2000;Table 2). Subjects in these studies were military
recruits in a ‘‘boot camp’’ training environment
(Pope et al., 1998, 2000) and recreational runners
(van Mechelen et al., 1993). The stretching interven-
tions involved three 10-s stretches to various muscle
groups (van Mechelen et al., 1993), one 20-s stretch
to various muscle groups (Pope et al., 2000) and four
20-s stretches to one muscle group (plantar flexors )
(Pope et al., 1998). In each study static stretches were
employed. Based on the available literature (Mag-
nusson et al., 1996a, 2000b; Muir et al., 1999;
McHugh & Nesse, 2008; Ryan et al., 2008a), it is
highly unlikely that any of these three stretching
protocols decreased passive resistance to stretch in
the target muscles.
With respe ct to compliance with the stretching and
control interventions, it is easier to achieve compli-
ance with a military study group (Pope et al., 1998,
2000) vs lay volunteers (van Mechelen et al., 1993).
For example, in the study by van Mechelen et al.
(1993), which examined the combination of warm-up
and stretching, only 47% of the stretching group
actually complied with the stretching intervention
McHugh & Cosgrave
174
Page 6
Table 2. Studies examining effects of stretching on injury risk
References Study design Subjects Sample size Intervention Effect on all injuries % muscle strains Effect on muscle
strains
van Mechelen
et al. (1993)
Randomized trial Recreational runners 167 control
159 intervention
10-min stretching1warm-up vs.
neither
No effect Low (not
specified)
Not specified
Pope et al.
(1998)
Randomized trial Military recruits 544 control
549 intervention
Warm-up1Stretching (4 ! 20 s
gastroc and soleus) vs. Warm-
up1Upper extremity stretching
No effect Low (not
specified)
Not specified
Pope et al.
(2000)
Randomized trial Military recruits 803 control
735 intervention
Warm-up1Stretching (1 ! 20-s
stretch six different muscle groups)
vs. Warm-up only
No effect 7.5% of Not specified
*
Ekstrand et al.
(1983)
Randomized trial Soccer Players Six teams control
Six teams
intervention
Multi-component intervention
(including 10-min stretching) vs. no
intervention
Control: 93 injuries
Intervention: 23
injuries
P
o0.001
25% Control: 23 injuries
Intervention: six
injuries
P
o0.001
Bixler and
Jones (1992)
Randomized trial American Football Two teams control
Three teams
intervention
3-min stretching1warm-up vs. no
intervention
No effect Sprains and
strains 38%
Control: 13 injuries
w
Intervention: one
injury
w
P
o0.05
Amako et al.
(2003)
Randomized trial Military Recruits 383 control
518 intervention
20-min supervised stretching
(18 ! 30-s stretches) vs.10-min
unsupervised stretching
No effect 20%
z
Control: 16 injuries
z
Intervention: seven
injury
z
P
o0.05
Hadala and
Barrios
(2009)
Longitudinal study Yachting Crew 28 per season 30-min stretching (12 stretches 1
or 2 ! 20–30 s stretches) vs. no
intervention
Control: 33 injuries
§
Intervention:14
injuries
§
P
o0.05
67% Control: 22 injuries
§
Intervention: four
injury
§
P
o0.01
*
Prevalence of thigh strains was 1.2% in the control group (10 strains in 803 subjects) vs. 0.3% in the stretching group (two in 735 subjects),
P
5 0.04, but not alluded to in paper.
w
Strains and sprains were grouped together for analysis.
z
Muscle strains and low back muscle strains combined.
§
Four-year study with stretching introduced in second year and additional interventions the following 2 years. The overall effect was analyzed for all4years.Theeffectofstretchinginfirstyearwasextractedfromthe
reported data.
To stretch or not to stretch
175
Page 7
while 5% of the control sample, who should not have
been stretching, were in fact stretching. Compliance
with the warm-up portion of the intervention was a
little better with 68% of the intervention group doing
their proposed warm-up; however, not surprisingly,
21% of the control group that were not supposed to
be doing the warm-up actually did a warm-up. These
compliance values simply highlight the diculty of
doing a proper controlled intervention in athletes
who have engrained pre-participation practices, re-
gardless of the knowledge of the ecacy of those
practices.
The most prevalent injuries in military recruits and
recreational runners would be expected to be overuse
injuries and in fact that was what was found in all
three studies. The prevalence of muscle strains was
either low or not cited. A consistent finding in the
three studies was that pre-participation stretching in
addition to a formal warm-up did not aect injury risk
compared with a control group performing a warm-
up without stretching (Pope et al., 1998, 2000) or no
warm-up and no stretching (van Mechelen et al.,
1993). Since most of the injuries were overuse injuries,
the firm conclusion can be that the addition of
stretching to a formal warm-up does not decrease
the risk of overuse injuries. Interestingly in the largest
of these studies Pope et al. (2000), with 1538 male
military recruits, 7.5% of injuries were muscle strains.
There were 35 muscle strains in the study, 21 of which
occurred in the control group and 14 of which
occurred in the stretching group. The most striking
dierence was the occurrence of 10 thigh strains in the
control group vs two thigh strains in the stretching
group. These injuries amount to a 1.2% prevalence in
the control group (10 strains in 803 subjects) vs a
0.3% prevalence in the stretching group (two strains
in 735 subjects), which is statistically significant
(Po0.05). The authors did not perform any analyses
with respect to muscle strains and did not refer to this
apparent dierence. While this possible eect of
stretching has a high risk of a type 1 error, the
observation warrants some mention here given the
lack of research on the eect of stretching on muscle
strains. However, considering that the stretching in-
tervention was probably inadequate to decrease pas-
sive resistance to stretch and that there was not a high
prevalence of muscle strains it is dicult to make any
firm conclusions from these data.
Studies showing some efficacy for stretching reducing
injury risk
Several randomized (or quasi-randomized) con-
trolled interventions have been published showing
an eect of pre-participation stretching on injury risk
(Ekstrand et al., 1983; Bixler & Jones, 1992; Amako
et al., 2003;Table 2). Additionally, a non-randomized
study also showed a beneficial eect of pre-participa-
tion stretching (Hadala & Barrios, 2009).
These studies involved military recruits (Amako
et al., 2003), adolescent American football players
(Bixler & Jones, 1992), soccer players (Ekstrand et
al., 1983) and elite competitive sailors (Hadala &
Barrios, 2009). The stretching interventions involved
one 30-s static stretch for each of four dierent upper
extremity stretches, seven trunk stretches, seven
lower extremity stretches (Amako et al., 2003), three
25-s static stretches to three dierent muscle groups
(Bixler & Jones, 1992), an unspecified number of
contract–relax stretches to various lower extremity
muscle groups (total time for stretch intervention was
10 min) (Ekstrand et al., 1983) and 12 str etches (PNF
and static) with two warm-up exercise lasting 30 min
(Hadala & Barrios, 2009). In the one study involving
soccer players (Ekstrand et al., 1983), the stretching
was part of a multi-component intervention consist-
ing of (1) no shooting before warm-up, (2) 10-min
warm-up ball exercises, (3) 10-min stretching, (4)
prophylactic ankle taping, (5) controlled rehab for
new and previous injuries, (6) exclusion of players
with knee instability, (7) instruction on fair play and
injury risk and (8) medical coverage for all games.
The diculty in controlling the stretching and
control interventions in these types of studies is
highlighted in the study by Amako et al. (2003),
where the control group performed 5–10 min of
unsupervised dynamic stretching before each training
session. This dynamic stretching was presumably
analogous to an active war m-up. The stretching
group performed a 20-min superv ised stretching so
there was still a marked dierence in what was
performed before training. Compliance was not
specified in these studies (Ekstrand et al., 1983; Bixler
& Jones, 1992; Amako et al., 2003; Hadala &
Barrios, 2009).
As would be expected for a military training study,
Amako et al. (2003) found that most injuries were
overuse injuries (36%), but muscle strains accounted
for 10% of injuries and low back injury accounted
for 13% of injuries. In this study, low back injury
was categorized as ‘‘disc herniation,’’ ‘‘disc degen-
eration,’’ or ‘‘muscle/unknown.’’ Twelve of the 15
low back injuries were categorized as ‘‘muscle/un-
known.’’ Bixler and Jones (1992) grouped muscle
strains with ligament sprain s and these accounted for
38% of all injuries. Most notably, Ekstrand et al.
(1983) found that muscle strains accounted for 25%
of all injuries in their sample of soccer players and
Hadala and Barr ios (2009) found that muscle injuries
accounted for 67% of all injuries during the control
period in their study of sailors.
Bixler and Jones (1992) studied the eect of a half-
time stretching and warm-up intervention on injuries
McHugh & Cosgrave
176
Page 8
in high-school football. Five teams were studied,
three in an intervention group and two in a control
group, in a quasi-random fashion. The intervention
was extremely limited with only 3 min devoted to the
stretching and warm-up. Injuries occurring in the
third-quarter of the games were analyzed. For ana-
lysis, ligament sprains and muscle strains were
grouped together. One sprain/strain occurred in the
intervention group and 13 occurred in the control
group, showing a significant eect of the intervention
(Po0.05). Given that the intervention was only 3 min
and the injuries were only studied in the third-
quarter, the results may be due to a type 1 error
and should be viewed with skepticism.
Amako et al. (2003) examined the eect of pre-
exercise stretching on 901 male military recruits (518
in the stretch group and 383 in the control group) in
a qu asi-random fashion. While only 10% of the
injuries were muscle strains and only 13% were low
back injuries, given a study sample of 901 recruits,
this amounted to a large nu mber of muscle strains
and low back injuries. For analysis, muscle strains
were combined with tendon injuries. The prevalence
of muscle/tendon injury was 2.5% in the intervention
group and 6.9% in the control group (Po0.05). The
prevalence of low back injury was 1% in the inter-
vention group and 3.5% in the control group
(Po0.05). In total, there were 11 lower extremity
muscle strains and 12 low back muscle injuries. Of
these 23 injuries, seven occurred in the stretching
group (1.4% prevalence) vs 16 in the control group
(4.2% prevalence). While this breakdown of injuries
was not perform ed in the study it represents a
significantly lower occurrence of injury in the stretch-
ing group (Po0.05). Taking the low back and muscle
injuries together, the intervention resulted in a 66%
reduction in musculotendinous injuries when com-
pared with the control group. The intervention
resulted in a 67% reduction in muscle strains and
low back muscle injuries combined. This significant
eect of stretching on muscle and low back injuries
was apparent despite the fact that the control group
actually did perform some unsupervised stretching.
The important component of this study was that the
complete stretching intervention was 20 min, which is
longer than most interventions. A negative factor is
that only one 30-s stretch was used for each of 18
stretches. However, six of these stretches involved the
quadriceps and hip flexors combined and three
involved the low back and hamstrings.
In the study by Ekst rand et al. (1983), six teams
were placed on the intervention and six teams served
as controls in a quasi-random fashion. The interven-
tion was eective in reducing all types of injuries.
With respect to muscle strains, there were six in the
intervention group and 23 in the control group
(Po0.001), representing a 74% reduction in muscle
strains. Because the intervention involved multiple
components, the key question is what role stretching
played in the dramatic reduction in muscle strains.
While the stretching intervention was only 10 min,
stretching plus warm-up accounted for 20 min and
were possibly complimentary. Other components of
the intervention, such as prophylactic ankle taping,
rehabilitation of previous injuries and instruction
on fair play and injury risk, are less likely to
have significantly impacted the risk of sustaining a
muscle strain. However, as with any multi-compo-
nent intervention it is not possible to attribute any
observed eect to one particular component of the
intervention.
Hadala and Barrios (2009) studied injuries in an
elite yachting crew during four consecutive seasons.
The first season served as a control period and the
subsequent seasons involved a progression of inter-
ventions aimed at reducing injuries. Of particular
interest is the first year of intervention, which in-
volved a 30-min stretching intervention (12 dierent
stretches for upper and lower extremities and two
low back warm-up ex ercises/stretches). The stretch-
ing was performed before competition and involved
one to two repetitions lasting 20–30 s. In the pre-
intervention season, there were 22 muscle injur ies in
9 days of competition compared with only four
muscle injuries in 9 days of competition the following
season. This represents an 82% reduction in muscle
injuries. Despite the fact that this was not a rando-
mized controlled trial, the data are noteworthy
for the marked beneficial eect of stretching. Of
note, 30-min total stretch duration is longer than
stretching interventions employed in other studies
(Ekstrand et al., 1983; Bixler & Jones, 1992; van
Mechelen et al., 1993; Pope et al., 1998, 2000; Amako
et al., 2003).
Summary of effect of stretching on injury risk
Of the seven studies cited in Table 2, the three
showing no eect of stretching had a low prevalence
of muscle strains (van Mechelen et al., 1993; Pope et
al., 1998, 2000) while the four studies showing some
eect of stretching had a high prevalence of muscle
strains (Ekstrand et al., 1983; Bixler & Jones, 1992;
Amako et al., 2003; Hadala & Barrios, 2009). A
common limitation among these studies is the di-
culty in isolating the eect of stretching. The ideal
randomized trial would include four groups: (1) a
group performing stretching alone, (2) a group
performing warm-up alon e, (3) a group performing
stretching plus warm-up and (4) a group performing
neither. The stretching intervention should be of
sucient intensity, frequency and duration to de-
crease passive resistance to stretch and the study
To stretch or not to stretch
177
Page 9
population should be involved in a sport with a high
prevalence of muscle strains. However, it is question -
able if it would be possible, or practical, to carry out
such a study in a group of athletes playing a sport
known to have a high incidence of muscle strains.
In conclusion, despite the previously mentioned
limitations there is evidence that pre-participation
stretching is beneficial for reducing muscle strains
(Ekstrand et al., 1983; Bixler & Jones, 1992; Amako
et al., 2003; Hadala & Barrios, 2009). However, there
is clearly a need for larger controlled trials.
Risk factors for muscle strains: where does stretching
fit in?
Injury risk in sports is multi-factorial and, in general,
is sport specific. There may be intrinsic risk factors
for specific injuries in a particular sport, such as age,
strength and flexibili ty, as well as extrinsic risk
factors, such as stretching, warm-up, training errors ,
protective equipment and rules. With respect to
studies on military recruits, the primary risk factor
for injury is likely overuse or what might be referred
to as training errors. Military recruits are subjected
to a massive increase in training volume involving
many ac tivities to which they have not previously
been exposed. Specific risk factors for muscle strains
have been previously identified; increasing age (Em-
ery & Meeuwis se, 2001; Orchard, 2001; Verrall et al.,
2001; Arnason et al., 2008), having su stained a
previous muscle strain (Seward et al., 1993; Emery
& Meeuwisse, 2001; Verrall et al., 2001; Arnason
et al., 2008) and muscle weakness relative to the
antagonist or the contralateral side (Orchard et al.,
1997; Tyler et al., 2001) are the strongest intrinsic risk
factors for sustaining a muscle strain. Several studies
have shown that flexibility is not a significant intrin-
sic risk fac tor for muscle strain in various sports
(Dvorak et al., 2000; Orchard, 2001; Tyler et al.,
2001; Verrall et al., 2001), but this is not synonymous
with concluding that stretching does not prevent
muscle strains. While flexibility is an intrinsic factor
inherent to the individual, stretching is an extrins ic
factor that is either practiced or not. The acute eects
of a pre-participation stretching intervention on
injury risk may be very dierent from the chronic
eects of habitual regular stretching.
Stretching, flexibility and functional range of motion
Some sports such as long-distance running require
much less range of motion in the major joints of
propulsion compared with other activities such as
ballet dance or gymnastics. In practical terms, the
athlete must have a sucient range of motion in his
or her joints before performing in order to perform
their particular sport adequately. A period of warm-
up, with or without stretching, will generally be
required to achieve this range of motion. A hurdler
must have sucient hip range of motion to flex the
lead hip with the knee fully extended and extend and
abduct the trailing leg to clear each hurdle. The
gymnast or ballet dancer may need to perform
bilateral hip abduction to 901 to meet the aesthetic
demands of their act ivity. While dancers, gymnastics
and to a lesser extent hurdlers may be inherently
more flexible in the hip joints than athletes from
other sports involving smaller changes in joint range
of motion, these athletes will still spend a lot of time
in warm-up and stretching to maximize joint range of
motion before participation.
The functional range of motion for a particular
joint can be assessed by examining the joint angle–
torque relationship for muscle contractions of agonist
muscle groups for a particular joint. The angle–
torque relationship is analogous to the length–tension
relationship. Flexibility has been shown to aect the
functional range of motion measured by the angle–
torque relationship. Specifically, hamstring flexibility
has recently been shown to aect the angle–torque
relationship for the knee flexors (Alonso et al., 2009).
In subjects with tight vs normal hamstring flexibility,
peak torque occurred at a joint angle corresponding
with a shorter muscle length. Additionally, while at
muscle lengths shorter than optimal, subjects with
tight hamstrings could produce more torque than
subjects with normal hamstring flexibility, while at
muscle lengths greater than optimal, subjects with
tight hamstrings produced less torque than subjects
with normal hamstring flexibility (Alonso et al.,
2009). The clinically relevant question is whether
acutely increasing flexibility by stretching also pro-
duces a shift in the angle–torque relationship such
that torque production at long muscle lengths is
augmented at the expense of torque production at
short muscle lengths. It is more dicult to answer this
question because acute stretching has a neural inhi-
bitory eect on strength (as discussed previously).
However, several studies have shown that stretch-
induced strength loss, while apparent at short muscle
lengths is not apparent at lengths beyond optimal
(Nelson et al., 2001; Herda et al., 2008; McHugh &
Nesse, 2008). These findings imply that acute stretch-
ing does shift the angle–torque relationship thereby
counteracting stretch-induced strength loss at longer
muscle lengths. Since muscle strains are thought to
occur with muscles in a relatively stretched position,
this eect may be advantageous for counteracting
potentially injurious muscle elongations. In practical
terms, such a hypothesis would be dicult to examine
with respect to muscle strains. However, the eect of
a stretching-induced change in the angle–torque re-
lationship and symptoms of exercise-induced muscle
McHugh & Cosgrave
178
Page 10
damage has been examined (McHugh & Nesse, 2008).
In general, the stretching intervention, which was
sucient to change the viscoelastic properties of the
muscle, did not aect subsequent strength loss and
pain after the eccentric exercise. However, when
tested with a muscle in a lengthened position, strength
loss was apparent in the non-stretched leg over 3 days
after the eccentric exercise, with no strength loss
apparent in the leg that was stretched before eccentric
exercise. Why this eect occurred at the longer muscle
length but not at shorter muscle lengths was not
readily explained. While the data provide some ex-
perimental evidence of a protective eect of stretch-
ing, it is important to note that exercise-induced
muscle damage and muscle strain injury are dierent
clinical entities.
Brockett et al. (2004) showed that a previous
muscle strain can alter the length-dependent char-
acteristics of muscle contraction and increase sus-
ceptibility to eccentric contraction-induced muscle
damage. Athletes with previous hamstring strains
generated peak knee flexion torque at a shorter
muscle length compared with the contralateral side
and compared with a group with no prior history of
hamstring injury. Furthermore, the previously in-
jured ham string muscles were more susceptible to
eccentric contraction-induced muscle dama ge. The
interesting clinical question is whether a muscle
length-dependent shift in contractile mechanics in
previously injured hamstrings also explains the high
re-injury rate (approximately 33%) (Seward et al.,
1993). If so, stretching would be a plausible acute
intervention while eccentric training wo uld be an
obvious chronic intervention.
Summary
With respect to the eect of pre-participation stretch-
ing on performance, it is clear that an acute bout of
stretching will decrease the ability to generate a
maximal force (Table 1). However, these eects are
less apparent when tests of muscle power are studied
and may not be apparent when the pre-participation
stretching is combined with other pre-participation
activities typically used in a warm-up, such as prac-
tice drills and low intensity movements. In activities
requiring large range of motions in various joints,
such as gymnastics and ballet dance, participants
need to perform some form of pre-participation
activity to achieve the required range of motion for
their performances. Whether this can be achieved by
stretching alone, warm-up al one or by a combination
of warm-up and stretching has not been established
in the literature.
With respect to the eect of pre-participation
stretching on injury risk, the epidemiological studie s
show that pre-participation stretching in addition to
warm-up will have no impact on injury risk during
activities where there is a prepondera nce of overuse
injuries (van Mechelen et al., 1993; Pope et al., 1998,
2000). However, it should be noted that the stretch-
ing interventions applied in these stu dies may have
been insuci ent to induce an acute change in the
viscoelastic properties of the muscles being stretched.
There is some evidence to indicate that pre-participa-
tion stretching does reduce the risk of muscle strains
(Ekstrand et al., 1983; Bixler & Jones , 1992; Amako
et al., 2003; Hadala & Barrios, 2009), however,
further research is needed in this area. The first step
in assessing any potential eect of pr e-participation
stretching on subsequent injury is to establish the
optimal stretching prescription with respect to de-
creasing passive resistance to stretch. Ideally, such an
intervention could then be applied to a group of
athletes in a sport known to have a high prevalence
of muscle strain injuries in a randomized controlled
fashion including; stretch only groups, warm-up only
groups, stretch and warm-up groups and control
groups. Whether such a study is feasible or practical
remains to be determined.
From the existing literature the following stretch-
ing recommendations for injury prevention seem
reasonable: (1) target pre-participation stretching to
muscle groups known to be at risk for a particular
sport, e.g. adductor strains and hip flexor strains in
ice-hockey, and hamstring strains in soccer, Austra-
lian rules football, etc.; (2) apply at least four to five
60-s stretches to pain tolerance to the target muscle
groups and perform bilaterally, in order to be con-
fident of decreasing passive resistance to stretch; (3)
to avoid any lingering stretch-induced stretch loss,
perform some dynamic pre-participation drills before
actual performance, e.g. sub-maximal ball kicking
and dribbling drills in soccer, skating drills in ice
hockey, etc. Hopefully future experimental and epi-
demiological studies will provide more substantial
data to guide such recommendations.
Perspectives
Considering the widespread practice of pre- partici-
pation stretching in sports there is limited research
assessing the ecacy of such practices. An acute bout
of stretching can impair muscle strength but eects
on sports performance are less apparent, and eects
of stretching combined with other warm-up drills
warrants further study. An inherent limitation in the
research on injury prevention is that there has been
inadequate consideration of the optimal intensity,
frequency and duration of the stretching protocols
employed. Despite these and other limitations there
is some evidence that stretching does not reduce the
To stretch or not to stretch
179
Page 11
risk of sustaining overuse injuries but does reduce the
risk of sustaining muscle strain injuries. Clearly
further research is needed in the area.
Key words: muscle strength, muscle strain, muscle
stiness, stretch-induced strength loss.
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    • "(Page, 2012) Numerous articles have been published on the effectiveness of stretching programs, especially pertaining to the length of the hamstrings muscles. (Page, 2012) Although most studies examining the effect of stretching on hamstring muscles reported an increased range of motion, (Decoster, Cleland, Altieri, and Russell, 2005) the literature is controversial with regard to the effects of hamstring stretch on maximal muscle performance (Page, 2012; Kay and Blazevich, 2012) and the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries, (Goldman and Jones, 2011; McHugh and Cosgrave, 2010; Pope, Herbert, Kirwan, and Graham, 2000) and suggests its inefficiency to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). (Herbert, De Noronha, Kamper, 2011) With regard to the way stretching techniques should be performed: ballistic (i.e. "
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Physiotherapy Theory and Practice
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    • "Thus, dose-dependent effects cannot be examined suitably in this context. Nonetheless, 3 studies (Brandenburg 2006; Sekir et al. 2010; Costa et al. 2013) reported significant reductions in a total of 8 eccentric strength measures, whereas 6 studies (Ayala et al. 2014; Cramer et al. 2006, 2007; Gohir et al. 2012; McHugh and Nesse 2008; Winke et al. 2010) reported no change in 15 eccentric measures (≥60 s, –4.2%); these small-tomoderate changes are similar to those observed when isometric and concentric testing were completed (Supplementary Table S4 1 ). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recently, there has been a shift from static stretching (SS) or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching within a warm-up to a greater emphasis on dynamic stretching (DS). The objective of this review was to compare the effects of SS, DS, and PNF on performance, range of motion (ROM), and injury prevention. The data indicated that SS- (-3.7%), DS- (+1.3%), and PNF- (-4.4%) induced performance changes were small to moderate with testing performed immediately after stretching, possibly because of reduced muscle activation after SS and PNF. A dose-response relationship illustrated greater performance deficits with ≥60 s (-4.6%) than with <60 s (-1.1%) SS per muscle group. Conversely, SS demonstrated a moderate (2.2%) performance benefit at longer muscle lengths. Testing was performed on average 3-5 min after stretching, and most studies did not include poststretching dynamic activities; when these activities were included, no clear performance effect was observed. DS produced small-to-moderate performance improvements when completed within minutes of physical activity. SS and PNF stretching had no clear effect on all-cause or overuse injuries; no data are available for DS. All forms of training induced ROM improvements, typically lasting <30 min. Changes may result from acute reductions in muscle and tendon stiffness or from neural adaptations causing an improved stretch tolerance. Considering the small-to-moderate changes immediately after stretching and the study limitations, stretching within a warm-up that includes additional poststretching dynamic activity is recommended for reducing muscle injuries and increasing joint ROM with inconsequential effects on subsequent athletic performance.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism
    • "It is well known in people that gymnastic training (GYM) involving muscular stretching and/or strengthening exercises contributes to the prevention of occupational diseases and enhances rehabilitation from injuries [9]. Muscular stretching performed before athletic activity reduces the risk of muscular strain although muscular strength and power may be impaired [10]. Strength training not only improves muscular force and power, it also protects against injury by activating and strengthening the deep stabilizing musculature [9]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The objective was to evaluate the efficacy of gymnastic training (GYM) and dynamic mobilization exercises (DMEs) on stride length (SL) and epaxial muscle size in therapy horses. Nine cross-bred hippotherapy horses that performed three, 25-minute therapeutic riding sessions per week throughout the study period were randomly assigned to three experimental groups: a control group in which the horses were sedentary with no additional physical activity; a group that performed DMEs; and a group that performed both DMEs and additional GYM including pelvic tilting, backing, turning in small circles, and walking over a raised rail to strengthen the abdominal and pelvic stabilizer muscles. The exercises were performed 3days per week for 3months, with evaluations at the start and end of the study. Stride quality was assessed by measuring SL and tracking distance (TD). Epaxial muscle size was monitored by ultrasonographic measurement of m. longissimus dorsi (LD) thickness and m. multifidi (MM) cross-sectional area. Paired t tests were used to compare within groups across time, and between groups were detected using analysis of variance with Tukey post hoc test. When walking at 1.3m/s, SL and TD at walk increased significantly (P < .05) in horses subjected to GYM. Thickness of LD did not change in any group, but cross-sectional area of MM increased significantly by 3.55cm2 (DME) and 3.78cm2 (GYM). It was concluded that GYM training improved stride quality and DME-stimulated MM hypertrophy which has been shown to improve intervertebral joint stability in other species.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2015 · Journal of Equine Veterinary Science
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