Over 70 million individuals all over the world run competitively or recreationally, and there has recently been debate with regards to whether runners ought to be stretching before a run, or not at all. This study included 2,729 runners who run 10 or more miles per week.
Of these runners, 1,366 were randomized to a stretch group, and 1,363 were randomized to a non-stretch group before running. The runners from the stretch group stretched their hamstrings, quadriceps, and gastrocnemius/soleus muscle groups. The whole routine took three to five minutes and was carried out immediately before a run. The research discovered that stretching before running doesn’t prevent or cause injury. Actually, the most significant risk factors for injury were the following:
- History of chronic injury or injury in the past 4 months;
- Higher BMI (body mass index); and
- Changing pre-run stretching regimens (those who usually stretched, stopping and those who did not stretch, stretching before a run).
As the study author is a runner himself, he assumed stretching before running would help to prevent injury. The researchers found that the risk for injury was identical for women and men across all age groups, even if they were low or high mileage runners. However, the more miles run or the more heavy and older the runner was, the more likely they were to get injured, and prior injury within 4 months predisposed to even additional injury.
Runners who usually stretch as part of their pre-run routine and were randomized not to stretch throughout the study period were far more prone to experience an injury. Even though all runners switching routines were more prone to experience an injury than the runners who didn’t switch, the group of runners that stopped stretching experience more injuries, indicating that a sudden shift in a routine could be more important than the routine itself.
The most frequent injuries suffered were knee injuries foot/ankle injuries, and groin pulls. There wasn’t any significant difference in the rate of injuries between the runners who stretched and those who did not for any particular injury.