Thacker, S. B., Gilchrist, J., Stroup, D. F., & Kimsey, C. D. Jr. (2004). The impact of stretching on sports injury risk: a systematic review of the literature. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36, 371-378.

A systematic review to assess the evidence for the effectiveness of stretching as a tool to prevent injuries in sports was conducted. Data-base searches were made of MEDLINE (1966-2002), Current Contents (1997-2002), Biomedical Collection (1993-1999), the Cochrane Library, and SPORTDiscus. Meta-analysis was limited to randomized trials or cohort studies for interventions that included stretching. Studies were excluded that lacked controls, in which stretching could not be assessed independently, or where studies did not include subjects in sporting or fitness activities. Six of 361 identified articles compared stretching with other methods to prevent injury.

Stretching was not significantly associated with a reduction in total injuries and similar findings were seen in the subgroup analyses.

Implication. There is insufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue routine stretching before or after exercise to prevent injury among competitive or recreational athletes. At best, the proposition that stretching prevents or reduces the likelihood of injuries is equivocal.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.