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The findings were made public at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Mired in controversy
Daniel Pereles, from George Washington University, who conducted the study, admitted that there is a “lot of controversy” over the wisdom of stretching before exercise.
"Some insist you need to stretch, others say you don't, and every time I tried to assess a study on this I found that the authors were extrapolating the results from gymnasts or wrestlers or soccer players or other sprinting or short distance athletes, and nothing was related to running," Pereles said.
He added that he was trying to find out if stretching before running offered any protection to recreational runners, rather than professional athletes.
The study involved a group of 2,729 volunteers who were recruited online and were divided into two groups. The volunteers were 13-years-old or above and ran a total distance of at least 10 miles every week.
For a period of three months, one group did stretching of their hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, and Achilles tendons for three to five minutes right before running.
The other group did not do any stretching prior to running but simply ran in their usual fashion. The runners were told to keep all other aspects of their routine similar and to report any injuries that would prevent them from running for at least a week.
Don’t break the routine
The researchers found that the rate of injury between the no-stretch group and the stretch group was similar – 16 percent. They also found that runners who were not used to stretching were at a greater risk of injury.
Similarly, runners who usually stretched before running were at greater risk when they did not stretch.
The conclusion is that it is wiser to stick to your usual routine and keep running the way you usually do.