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New study gets to the bottom of stretching

Media release: 
15/06/2009

A new study that examined the effects of stretching has found that stretching does not reduce the overall risk of injury, but does reduce soreness and risk of injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments. The main purpose of ‘The Stretching Study’ was to determine whether stretching reduces the risk of injury and prevents soreness in people who participate recreationally in physical activity.

The main findings were that:

  1. Stretching does not reduce the overall risk of injury, but it does reduce the risk of specific types of injuries (injuries to muscles, ligaments and tendons).
  2. Stretching produces small reductions in the risk of muscle soreness. People who stretch have about 8% less chance of experiencing soreness in any one week than people who do not stretch. Another way of saying this is that stretching will prevent soreness in any one week in one in every 13 people who stretch.

People who exercise may want to know if these findings mean they should or should not stretch. The researchers summarise the findings in this way: "If you like stretching, the findings of this study support the decision to stretch. However you should not expect large effects of stretching: stretching makes only a small difference to your risk of getting injured or becoming sore. If you do not like stretching you will need to weigh the small potential benefit of stretching (a small reduction in risk of being sore and a small reduction in risk of some injuries) against the effort and time it takes to stretch".

This study was supported by the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services and with a grant from the New South Wales Sporting Injuries Committee.

A technical report of the study has been published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, click here to download a copy.