It is a complex issue with no 100% accepted "truth" coming to the fore. For example, does stretching reduce the risk of injury? Does stretching reduce D.O.M.S (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)? Does stretching and improving flexibility improve athletic performance?
All extremely good questions, unfortunately none of them has no definitive answer.
We have all been taught that stretching (mostly static) is an essential part of reducing muscle soreness and injury and as a result, athletic performance will be enhanced. However, over the past few years, research has started to dispute 2 of these claims.
A recent article in the British Medical Journal showed that pre- and post activity stretching had not affect on the reduction of muscle soreness (D.O.M.S).
Another study in Australia reviewed five previously conducted studies which all investigated the impact stretching had on muscle soreness.
An interesting statistic from this review was that muscle stretching prevented one (1) injury every 23 years. Obviously this was fairly small sample size and the results should not be taken to be gospel, but interesting none-the-less.
So how and why does connective tissue become injured?
More often than not, in the athletic environment, muscles and tendons become damaged because the force applied to them is greater than their ability to tolerate that force. It is logical therefore that in order to reduce injury we should rather spending time strengthening these muscles.
Where stretching does play an important role in athletic performance is by increasing (or maintaining) tendons length which in turn allow a greater torque to be produced on the joint to produce more force.
This increased force production capacity of the tendon translates into:
- running faster and longer
- moving more quickly
- increasing agility and reaction time to help you run faster
- jumping higher
- throwing further