Wrong, if you think not stretching is a risk factor for a running injury. So what, then, are the top three risk factors for suffering an injury from running? First of all, the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons included a study report stating that stretching, or lack of stretching, did not influence the injury risk.
The study that was presented at the AAOS annual meeting revealed that it’s not stretching that raises risk of the injuries, but it’s the following that are significant risks for running-related injury:
1) A history of a chronic injury, or more acute injury, in the four months preceding a new onset running injury
2) A higher BMI (body mass index), which is an indicator of overweight
3) Switching up a stretching routine that’s already been in place, such as athletes who usually stretch, who then stopped
The study involved over 2,700 runners who covered at least 10 miles a week. 1,366 of them were placed in a stretching group, and 1,363 were assigned to a non-stretching group. In the stretching group, the participants stretched their hamstrings, quadriceps and calve muscles for 3-5 minutes, immediately prior to running. Again, it was found that stretching either before, or after the activity, did not result in injury.
Here is what Daniel Pereles, MD, orthopaedic surgeon from Montgomery Orthopedics near Washington, DC., and study author, states: “As a runner myself, I thought stretching before a run would help to prevent injury. However, we found that the risk for injury was the same for men and women, whether or not they were high or low mileage runners, and across all age groups. But, the more mileage run or the heavier and older the runner was, the more likely he or she was likely to get injured, and previous injury within four months predisposed to even further injury.”
As for that third risk factor, the switching up of a stretching routine, Dr. Pereles explains, “Although all runners switching routines were more likely to experience an injury than those who did not switch, the group that stopped stretching had more reported injuries, implying that an immediate shift in a regimen may be more important than the regimen itself.”
I’m a certified personal trainer. Sometimes runners stretch prior to their activity because it feels good. Being overweight is a risk factor for injury because the excess weight adds significantly more stress on the joints, in an already joint-stressed activity.
Logging a lot of mileage is also easy to understand as a high risk factor for injuries in runners. Humans were designed to be runners, but this doesn’t mean 10 miles a day. The best time to stretch is after your muscles are warmed up. Walk briskly for five minutes, then stretch for several minutes, then start running.