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Stretch before a run or don’t -- a study finds it may not matter, injury-wise

To stretch or not to stretch before a workout--that is the question many athletes ponder. A study finds that for runners, the pre-stretching versus not pre-stretching argument may be a 50/50 thing, neither doing any harm nor providing any benefits.

The study, presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Diego, included 2,729 runners over the age of 13 who ran a minimum of 10 miles per week. About half were randomly assigned to do stretching just before running, and the others did no stretching. The pre-run stretch lasted for three to five minutes and incorporated stretches for the quadriceps, calf and hamstring muscles.

Over the three-month study period there were no substantial differences in the risk of injury between the two groups. Researchers discovered that stretching neither caused injury nor helped avoid it, compared with the no-stretch group. Injury rates were the same in both groups. Some injury risk factors were found: having a higher body mass index, being older, and running more miles per week.

Also, those who changed their regular pre-run stretching routines were more prone to injury than those who stayed with their normal habits.

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“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,” said study co-author Dr. Daniel Pereles, an orthopaedic surgeon from Montgomery Orthopaedics in Maryland, in a news release.


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