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Rod Pope
It is a waste of time because it doesn't prevent injury
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Thursday, 16 December, 1999, 11:30 GMT
Stretching before exercise 'a waste of time'

athletics Stretching may not prevent athletes' injuries

Stretching before you exercise is a waste of time, say researchers who have advised abandoning the technique.

There is no evidence to prove that stretching prevents injuries, they say following a study of 2,600 Australian army recruits.

If people are stretching to prevent injury, it is a waste of time, because it does not prevent injury
Rod Pope
The team of researchers at the University of Sydney and Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, have now told the Australian army to scrap the tradition.

It has been generally assumed that stretching muscles before exercise reduced the risk of injury.

But the study, published in New Scientist magazine. in which some recruits stretched leg muscles before exercise while others did not, found there was no difference in injury rates.

Army physiotherapist Rod Pope, who led the study, told the BBC's Today programme: "If people are stretching to prevent injury, it is a waste of time, because it does not prevent injury."

Ruled out

He told New Scientist: "We were able to rule out even quite a small effect of stretching.

"This has not been properly researched before. Stretching was assumed to work in preventing injury, but there was no evidence to suggest it did."

Though the research was carried out on young recruits, he said the results would probably be the same for older people.

Getting the message across to his army colleagues may prove difficult though. "It's a long tradition and tradition dies hard," he said.

He does though advise that people stretch muscles which are tight and could restrict movement.

And he makes a distinction between stretching and warming up, which involves moving the whole body rather than just stretching individual muscles.

And he suspects that stretching after exercise could be beneficial, though this has not been investigated.

"There is no evidence that points unequivocally one way or another," said Robert Price of Deakin University, Melbourne.

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See also:
15 Apr 99 |  Medical notes
Injury risks for young footballers
02 Dec 99 |  Health
Girls 'fitter than tests show'
24 Nov 99 |  Health
Muscle machine 'to build super-athletes'

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