Yesterday, the NY times reported on a study performed by USA Track and Field, the organization that credentials the race’s and many of the running events throughout NJ (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/01/phys-ed-does-stretching-before-running-prevent-injuries/)
I have been working with runners and have been involved with USATF in NJ and I have always maintained that stretching does not prevent injuries. For years, stretching had been the gold standard and even today, many running coaches who were brought up with this concept continue to teach stretching to their new and developing athletes.
Years ago, when I was in chiropractic college in Illinois, a company called SPRI who performed rehab and the owners, Richard Dominguez, Robert J Gajda, wrote about their methods in a book entitled Total Body Training. The book, written in the 80’s told about how exercises rather than stretching gets the best performance out of athletes. SPRI now produces tubing kits for exercise as well as other products. Many other studies have also shown that stretching has little benefit and now the USATF study also shows that those who stretch and those who do not have about the same amount of injuries.
An interesting note in all this is that those who were used to stretching and then stopped had an increase in the amount of injuries that had the endure.
Looking past the surface of this, there is a benefit to stretching which is in young and developing children. As bones grow, so do muscles in response to that growth. Stretching during those young years will yield greater flexibility in adulthood which is why I will never be able to perform a split while my daughter who has done gymnastics since she was 4 years old can.
When we look at the motivation of stretching which is injury avoidance, I believe those who did it regularly and then stopped and experienced more problems had bio-mechanical issues which likely were never properly identified. In our office, patients find out that it is firing patterns, myofascia and muscular coordination of movement which actually are the reasons for tightness. Once these issues are properly addressed, the person tightens much less, has much greater flexibility and their overall gait improves. The more efficiently they move, the more flexible they are and the fewer injuries they sustain. The discussion should not be about weather or not to stretch. The argument is about body mechanics and its relationship to injuries in runners.
What do you think? As always, I value your opinion