It is a commonly thought that failing to stretch before sport is a major cause of injury. However, the evidence has shown that stretching does not change your risk of getting injured. In contrast, doing static stretching can sometimes have a negative impact on your performance, if your activities require quick and sudden movements, such as sprinting and jumps. Stretching may reduce pain and stiffness following strenuous activity. However, stretching should be avoided if you have an acute muscle injury or if you have tendon pain (e.g. Achilles, tennis elbow).
On the positive side, stretching can increase your joint range of motion. To achieve that you must be consistent (repeated daily for weeks), holding the stretch for 30 seconds at least. This is recommended after sports or during the off season and may help your recovery.
Warming up (as opposed to stretching) is essential to reduce your risk of getting injured. It should include dynamic stretches, aerobic training (to increase your body temperature) and change of direction drills (if you are doing a contact sport or quick change of direction is required in your sport).
To recap, stretching is important and beneficial but not necessarily in the way most people expect.
Author: Ahmad Salma MISCP