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Effect of Stretching on Sport Injury Risk: a Review

Hart, Lawrence MB BCh MSc

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: March 2005 - Volume 15 - Issue 2 - p 113
doi: 10.1097/01.jsm.0000151869.98555.67
Sport Medicine Journal Club

Objective: Effect of Stretching on Sport Injury Risk: a Review To assess the evidence for the effectiveness of stretching for the prevention of injuries in sports.

Data sources: MEDLINE (1966 to September, 2002), Current Contents, Biomedical Collection, Dissertation Abstracts, the Cochrane Library, and SPORTDiscus were searched for articles in all languages using terms including stretching, flexibility, injury, epidemiology, and injury prevention. Reference lists were searched and experts contacted for further relevant studies.

Study selection: Criteria for inclusion were randomized trials or cohort studies of interventions that included stretching compared with other interventions, with participants who were engaged in sporting or fitness activities. One author identified 361 articles reporting on flexibility, methods and effects of stretching, risk factors for injury, and injury prevention, of which 6 articles fulfilled the inclusion criteria for meta-analysis.

Data extraction: Three independent reviewers blinded to the authors and institutions of the investigations assessed the methodologic quality of the studies (100-point scale) and reached consensus on disagreements. Details of study participants, interventions, and outcomes were extracted. Weighted pooled odds ratios were calculated for effects of interventions on an intention-to-treat basis.

Main results: Reduction in total injuries (shin splints, tibial stress reaction, sprains/strains, and lower-extremity and -limb injuries) with either stretching of specific leg-muscle groups or multiple muscle groups was not found in 5 controlled studies (odds ratio [OR] 0.93; 95% CI, 0.78 to 1.11). Reduction in injuries was not significantly greater for stretching of specific muscles (OR, 0.80; CI, 0.54-1.14) or multiple muscle groups (OR, 0.96; CI, 0.71-1.28). Combining the 3 ratings of methodologic quality, median scores were 29 to 60/100. After adjustment for confounders, low quality studies did not show a greater reduction in injuries with stretching (OR, 0.88; CI, 0.67-1.15) compared with high quality studies (OR, 0.97; CI, 0.77-1.22). Stretching to improve flexibility, adverse effects of stretching, and effects of warm up were not assessed by appropriate intervention studies.

Conclusion: Limited evidence showed stretching had no effect in reducing injuries.

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Source of funding for the original study: No external funding.

Correspondence about the original study: Stephen B. Thacker, MD, MSc, Director Epidemiology Program Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MS CO8, Atlanta, GA 30333. E-mail: sbt1@cdc.gov

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.