Sports Medicine - The Benefits of Stretching ׀ by Chai Rasavong MPT, MBA


Can stretching play an important role in the success of an athlete’s performance and in preventing injury? The jury is still out on this. A review by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the March 2004 issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise revealed that the research studies conducted on stretching are insufficient in regards to the effectiveness of stretching for minimizing muscle soreness or reducing injuries. In some studies, the research has actually shown that stretching before exercise tends to be counterproductive because in loosening muscles, it also temporarily weakens them. Despite the lack of evidence to support stretching many athletes remain committed to stretching with the belief that stretching will help with improving performance and reducing injuries.

Quite often, physical therapists see athletes and patients who could benefit from stretching to help with various areas that they may be deficient in. Such areas include: posture, range of motion, flexibility, stress and circulation. Addressing these areas with stretching could not only help with improving function but reduction of injury as well.

1) Posture – Tight muscles can affect your posture thus making you more susceptible to injuries. For example tight hip flexors along with weak abdominal muscles can result in an anterior pelvic tilt and contribute to increase stresses on theback.

2) Range of Motion - Muscles and tendons assist in moving a joint. They need to be able to move a joint through the required range of motion when participating in various activities such as running, jumping or biking. Should these muscles be tight and limit range of motion, than they are more susceptible to being pulled or injured as they don’t move through the full or intended amount of range of motion. For example a lack of range of motion at the ankle and foot could contribute to achillestendonitis or plantar fasciitis.

3) Flexibility – As one ages, individuals often note that their flexibility was not what it use to be compared to when one was younger. This could be contributed to the shortening and tightening of muscles. This limitation with flexibility, in turn, could increase the likelihood of injury and also make exercising more difficult.

4) Stress – Stress is quite common in our busy lives. Stress can contribute to increase tension and tightness in muscles and have a negative impact not only on the affected areas but also on one’s entire sense of well being. Stretching can help with unwinding and with releasing feel good chemicals – endorphins.

5) Circulation – Stretching has been proven to help with increasing circulation. With improved circulation comes increase blood flow which brings in more nutrients and takes away more waste products as a result of exercise.


Some common guidelines for stretching are:
1. do not overstretch but do stretch to the point of  slight discomfort.
2. hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and stretch to simulate the activity/action you will be performing
3. stretch both sides when stretching.
4. stretch all major muscle groups (ie. calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, groin, hip flexors) videos 08, 25, 28, 30 and 24.

Last revised: June 6, 2008
by Chai Rasavong, MPT

Terms & Conditions

Please review our terms and conditions carefully before utilization of the Site. The information on this Site is for informational purposes only and should in no way replace a conventional visit to an actual live physical therapist or other healthcare professional. It is recommended that you seek professional and medical advise from your physical therapist or physician prior to any form of self treatment.