To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance


Corresponding author: Malachy P. McHugh, PhD, Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, Lenox Hill Hospital, 130 East 77th St, New York, New York 10075, USA. Tel: +1 212 434 2714, Fax: +1 212 434 2687, E-mail:


Stretching is commonly practiced before sports participation; however, effects on subsequent performance and injury prevention are not well understood. There is an abundance of literature demonstrating that a single bout of stretching acutely impairs muscle strength, with a lesser effect on power. The extent to which these effects are apparent when stretching is combined with other aspects of a pre-participation warm-up, such as practice drills and low intensity dynamic exercises, is not known. With respect to the effect of pre-participation stretching on injury prevention a limited number of studies of varying quality have shown mixed results. A general consensus is that stretching in addition to warm-up does not affect the incidence of overuse injuries. There is evidence that pre-participation stretching reduces the incidence of muscle strains but there is clearly a need for further work. Future prospective randomized studies should use stretching interventions that are effective at decreasing passive resistance to stretch and assess effects on subsequent injury incidence in sports with a high prevalence of muscle strains.